Eye For Film >> Movies >> Giovanna's Father (2008) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Giovanna is a quiet girl. She's clearly stressed, withdrawn, not fitting in. So her father does his best to help, cheering her up, encouraging her to think that boys like her. It seems like the proper thing for a parent to do - and after all, Giovanna's situation isn't really that uncommon. But nobody really knows how badly she's hurting, or how desperate and obsessive she has become, until a sudden act of shocking violence tears apart this quiet middle class world.
How would you respond if somebody you loved did a terrible thing? Giovanna's father never hesitates for a moment. He loves his little girl and, though it takes him some time to accept the truth of what has occurred, he remains determined to help her - even if it means leaving everything else he has ever cared about behind. In his devotion to her, he maintains an unshakable faith which gives him extraordinary strength. The only character present with a comparable will is Giovanna herself, but her determination works against her, forcing her to seek refuge in more and more layers of delusion, driving her into madness.
With an unrepentently emotive score and an ongoing focus on different forms of suffering, this can sometimes seem a bit heavy handed, but it's saved by an outstanding performance from Alba Rohrwacher, who conveys Giovanna's mental disintegration with complete conviction. There's not a hint of melodrama or stereotyping in her profoundly evocative performance, and it's all the more distressing to watch as a result. Opposite her, Silvio Orlando as her father is wisely understated in his actions, but his face speaks volumes. Meanwhile, Francesca Neri is remote but sympathetic as the mother who lost all real communication with her daughter long ago and can only deal with the crisis by distancing herself further.
Instead of taking the popular dramatic route and focusing on the act itself, or on Giovanna's trial, as if either of these constituted an end point in her story, the film chooses to tackle the experiences of these three people over years, asking important questions about how we behave when we have no conventional narratives to guide us. In the background, the national narrative is also disrupted by war, as Mussolini's Fascists fight against the Allies. Bombers sweep overhead; tenement buildings full of ordinary families are blown to pieces. Is this a sane world? The film reaches beyond Giovanna's situation to ask bigger questions about the price of forgiveness and what happens when there's none available.
Formulaic in some ways, refreshingly unconventional in others, this beautifully played film is well worth looking out for.Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2009