Alone with Her Dreams

Movie review by
Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media
Alone with Her Dreams Movie Poster Image
Italian coming-of-age drama has death and sexual violence.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie focuses on the importance of truth, though lies sometimes look more attractive. Pain can fester and become destructive when things are left unsaid.

Positive Role Models

Lucia is a curious and adventurous child, yet is often rude and disobedient toward her grandmother, Nonna Maria. Nonna Maria is incredibly strict and is both verbally and physically abusive on occasion. But she is also loving, protective, and proud beneath the surface. Many adults show kindness, though one man is deceptive and dangerous beyond a friendly facade. A young woman has a reputation for promiscuity, but is revealed to be troubled by an abusive father.


A character is stabbed and their throat slit, with blood spatter shown. Numerous dead bodies are displayed as they are dressed for mourning. Rape is both referred to and implied, with a child shown bleeding as a result. A character is seen with bruises to the face and body, but no violence is witnessed. A child is dragged by the wrist, slapped, and beaten with a wooden spoon. Verbal threats include cutting hands and tongues. A chicken has its neck wrung offscreen. Reference is made to overdose, suicide, and miscarriage.


Sexual intercourse is shown, though no nudity is seen at the time. Full nudity occurs in a separate scene. Reference is made to periods and growing breasts.


Occasional strong language includes "f--k," "bitch," "ass," "bastard," and "slut."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarettes are smoked on occasion. Alcohol is consumed with a meal, but characters are not seen drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alone with Her Dreams (Picciridda - Con i piedi nella sabbia) is an impressive Italian drama with English subtitles, containing serious adult themes such as rape and murder. It is a coming-of-age movie about 11-year-old Lucia (Marta Castiglia) who after going to live with her strict grandmother (Lucia Sardo) starts to uncover a number of dark family secrets. Rape is both mentioned and implied, once involving a minor. The violence includes stabbing and slitting of the throat, as well as slapping and hitting with a spoon. Sexual intercourse and full female nudity are shown and there is strong language used on occasion, including "f--k" and "bitch." There is both occasional smoking and drinking -- although never to excess. Frequent references are made to Catholicism, and dead bodies are seen as they are dressed for funerals. An instance of bullying involves destruction of property. There are also moments of tenderness and themes of family and friendship -- though much of the movie may be disturbing and confusing for younger viewers and is more suitable for adults and older teens.

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What's the story?

In ALONE WITH HER DREAMS, Lucia (Marta Castiglia) is left with her grandmother, Nonna Maria (Lucia Sardo), in a small Italian town while her parents emigrate to France to make a better life for them. The 11-year-old Lucia spends much of her time rebelling against her grandmother's strict rules and becoming increasingly curious about a rift in the family that leaves her banned from speaking to her grandmother's sister, her husband, and daughter. But as she gets closer to the forbidden relatives, Lucia becomes part of a violent secret left untold for decades, and it is only when she returns to the village as an adult that she truly begins to understand her grandmother's pain.

Is it any good?

A superb Italian drama from debut director Paolo Licata, this movie may be slow-paced, but this only adds to its intensity. Beautifully filmed, with a languid, dreamlike quality that often serves to release Lucia from the gritty realities of day-to-day life, the rugged Sicilian coastline is at once a symbol of wildness and adventure, and danger and isolation. Female repression is a strong theme, a mixture of untold sexual violence and stigmatization lurking beneath the surface as the women of the story go about their lives, each battling with their own secrets and lies.

Sardo is a force to be reckoned with as Nonna Maria, her anger at the world barely contained from one scene to the next. Her pride and determination is reflected in Lucia's strong temperament, causing the two to frequently lock horns. An ominous atmosphere penetrates every scene, from the innocent playing of children to the silence at mealtimes, making Lucia's trusting step across the threshold into darkness an evident tragedy before it has even occurred. Still, captivating, and heartbreaking, yet with moments of warmth, energy, and release, Alone with Her Dreams is a stunning coming-of-age story that will linger long after the final scene fades.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence and in particular the sexual violence in Alone with Her Dreams. How was it dealt with in the movie? How did it make you feel? How to talk about sexual harassment with tweens and teens.

  • Discuss how Nonna Maria behaves toward Lucia. Did your understanding and feelings for Nonna Maria change as the movie went on? How might we apply this to real life? Can you think of a time when your feelings toward someone changed as you learned more about their situation?

  • Discuss how women are represented in the movie. Which female characters show strength despite their repression? Movies with strong female role models.

  • How does this Italian film compare to other movies you might have seen. Did you find the subtitles distracting? Would you like to watch more foreign movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age movies

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