Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"The story may be presented in a quirky way, with a highly distinctive visual style, but it’s well observed and relatable."

Do you have days when doing anything at all – especially at a social level – seems to take an enormous mental effort, and when everything anybody says to you sounds as if it was intended to hurt? For Amanda (Benedetta Porcoroli), every day is like that. She’s 25 but she still hurts and lashes out like a teenager. Her lifestyle hasn’t changed much either. She still gets her wealthy family to pay her rent and spends her days lounging around telling people how miserable she is, he nights drifting around outdoor raves trying to figure out the basics of social interaction.

Despite all this, Porcoroli manages to make Amanda sympathetic. The lonely woman’s borderline personality traits are clearly a product of emotional pain, whilst her intensity makes her a compelling subject. The impetus for the action in Carolina Cavalli’s bold début feature is Amanda’s mother’s decision to try to intervene in her life. By insisting that their housekeeper no longer indulge her by acting as a substitute friend, she forces Amanda to make more effort to connect with the world. At the same time, a friend of hers presents Amanda with the challenge of getting to know her own disaffected daughter, Rebecca (Galatéa Bellugi).

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With humour and a sharp awareness of life’s incidental cruelties, the film plumbs the depths of Amanda’s unhappiness even as it illustrates her spectacular ability to self-sabotage. Her idea of making flirtatious eye contact with a young man almost gets her into a fight, and she frequently meets kindness with outrage. The only person she seems to have a genuine bond with is her religiously obsessed eight-year-old niece, and we get a glimpse of her tender side when she refuses to pursue an obvious mutual interest with a teacher because she knows her niece has a crush on him. Dinners at the elegant family estate are always a form of combat between Amanda and her mother. The large dining table is ringed with older male figures whom we never get to know, but whose marvellously expressive faces supply us with all the understanding we need.

In many ways the film plays out like a romcom, despite Amanda having a male object of desire on the side. Initially combative with one another, she and Rebecca go on to form an intense bond, but of course it goes wrong, fractious as they both are. Can they get back together again? This conventional structure allows the film to dwell on the importance of non-romantic, non-sexual love, and the moments of silliness which the two young women enjoy together, contrasting starkly with their behaviour at other times, are a delight to watch.

In the background, we see Amanda gradually sort out other aspects of her life, developing a sense of herself which goes beyond her relationship with her family (and might even make that healthier as a result). She pursues her ambition to own an electric fan and a horse, discovers practical talents which she didn’t know she had, and begins to develop a little faith in the world, a recognition that not everyone is hostile. The story may be presented in a quirky way, with a highly distinctive visual style, but it’s well observed and relatable. The acting is strong all round, with Porcoroli a real standout, and Cavalli handles the whole thing with impressive confidence. This is not a film which you will easily forget.

Reviewed on: 07 Jul 2023
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As far as 24-year-old Amanda can remember, she has never had friends. It’s the thing she desires most. When she finds out that as infants she and Rebecca had spent a lot of time together, Amanda settles on her new mission: convincing her that they are still best friends.

Director: Carolina Cavalli

Writer: Carolina Cavalli

Starring: Benedetta Porcaroli, Galatéa Bellugi, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Michele Bravi, Monica Nappo

Year: 2022

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Italy

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