The Movie Waffler New to MUBI - A CHIARA | The Movie Waffler


a chiara review
A teenage girl investigates her father's mysterious disappearance.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Jonas Carpignano

Starring: Swamy Rotolo, Claudio Rotolo, Grecia Rotolo, Carmela Fumo

a chiara poster

A cliché of the crime film, especially those which feature links to Italy, is the prevailing trope of ‘family’: familial honour, familial bonds, the aggrandizing implication that whatever wrongdoings are enacted in the name of family are forgivable, and are, in fact, laudable. This always sort of annoyed me, the glib glamourisation of bullies and criminals, who, when contextualised within heteronormative nuclear families, are somehow reconsidered as noble and aspirational. Do me a favour. These people are the absolute worst! Facilitating their greed and will to power with intimidation and violence and exploitation: a superstitious and cowardly lot, indeed. Refreshingly, Jonas Carpignano’s A Chiara reviews the trope of the Italian crime clan, looking at the fallout of organised criminal activity as it affects a kingpin’s family, in particular the titular Chiara, a 15-year-old school girl (Swamy Rotolo) whose old man (Claudio Rotolo - yes, they are real life father and daughter) has gone on the run after being fingered by the law.

a chiara review

Apparently, Carpignano’s method was to work with the amateur actors of the Rotolo family using an enigmatic, discrete manner: giving each performer only the most scant information for a scene in order to elicit a spontaneous, natural performance. Thus, A Chiara has high levels of verisimilitude in its opening scenes as it immerses us in Chiara’s world via non-causal sequences of her at the gym, the dinner table, applying makeup. It’s all well and good, and the chemistry between family members has a rare authenticity, but the approach is very indulgent. A Chiara’s opening sequences, aside from the occasional enigmatic nods towards the forthcoming second act revelation, are essentially a presentation of a teenage girl’s rather quotidian lifestyle. There is an abiding sense that representing a person’s daily presence is entertaining enough in itself: this is meant to be narrative cinema, not Instagram.

a chiara review

Although, A Chiara hardly has the gloss which said platform connotes. For all his crime affiliations, Mr Rotolo’s family abide on top of one another in a cramped flat and live a rather utilitarian lifestyle. Not that Chiara, or us, are meant to be initially aware of dad’s links to the Calabrian underworld: it’s an interminable half an hour before anything plotty occurs in A Chiara, so adherent is Carpignano to his scene setting. By then we’ve all cottoned on to what’s afoot, apart from poor Chiara, whom we hang about for, willing her to catch up. It’s a frustrating narrative choice: via subjective framing, close ups, and long held shots on her looking a bit pensive, we are encouraged to identify strongly with our central character, but the sly dramatic irony contrasts the focus, further slowing the film.

a chiara review

When Chiara finally catches herself on the film does tentatively approach potentially interesting repercussions of the fallout. Notably, Chiara is commandeered by social services, who attempt to move her across country to live with a strange family; a measure ostensibly mooted to provide safety for the girl, but which is really designed to put pressure on the exiled Claudio. Makes you wonder who the real criminals are, etc, except it doesn’t because the problem is, by this point, A Chiara has run out of time to explore these intriguing viali. Chiara wanders around in a fugue state of confusion, shifted about either by the authorities or shady henchmen, demonstrating a lack of agency which belies the self-actualisation of the film’s title. As an antidote to the disingenuous aspiration of certain other mafioso depictions, A Chiara does have worth, but, when it comes down to it, this is an offer you might find easy to refuse.

A Chiara is on MUBI UK now.

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