A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sicilian Ghost Story is based on a true story about the kidnapping of the 11-year-old son of a Mafia hitman. In Italian with English subtitles, the film sets the young boy's fate against the backdrop of young love. Just before he's abducted, the boy falls for a classmate, and that girl continues to look for him for more than two years, long after the police and others have given up. The captors starve and mistreat him -- his ordeal is intercut with the girl's growing depression and suicide attempts. The boy comes to a bad end but the graphic particulars aren't shown. A woman's breasts are seen and language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "c--ksucker." Adults smoke cigarettes.
What's the story?
In SICILIAN GHOST STORY, Luna (Julia Jedlikowska) has a secret crush on classmate Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez). One romantic afternoon in the woods, as they gaze into each other's eyes, he confirms that the feelings are mutual, but the young love is cut short when he disappears later that day. Luna's parents disapprove of him anyway, we learn, because his father is a known Mafia hit man. The police show little interest in Giuseppe's mysterious disappearance, but Luna obsessively looks for him in a number of places, in and around woods, a grotto, ruins near their Sicilian village, and other sites. Her investigation is intercut with Giuseppi learning from his captors that he won't be released until his father agrees to stop informing on them to the police. The plot is based on the true fate of the young son of a Mafioso, who was kept in captivity for 779 days and later brutally executed in Sicily. The pair are reunited in dream sequences and when a despondent Luna tries to drown herself during her vain search for Giuseppe.
Is it any good?
Based on a true story, this dark drama may appeal to teens, but it doesn't quite deliver. The able filmmakers Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza certainly strive to pose young love as the compelling backdrop to this story of Sicilian Mafia revenge, kidnapping, murder, and general brutality, but affectation and forced artsiness leave Sicilian Ghost Story murky, over-long, and confusing through most of its two-hour-plus running time. The use of fairy-tale techniques -- dream sequences, wishful thinking, barely lighted scenes, and a seemingly deliberate failure to establish place and time -- often render this so hard to follow that even intense interest in the fates of lead characters diminish and disappear into the studied nothingness of long silent shots of dark sky or rocks in a grotto. Characters with determination head toward specific destinations and we have no idea why, nor what has led them to take a particular plan of action. A more straightforward telling would have been spellbinding, especially in light of good performances by attractive young actors Jedlikowska and Fernandez in the lead roles.
Italian audiences familiar with the real-life tale that inspired this film may be more forgiving in their foreknowledge of the story's setting and outcome, but those who come on this material fresh may be confused if not disappointed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the intensity of young love. Why do you think Luna feels Giuseppe's absence so deeply? Do you think young love can endure? Why or why not?
Sicilian Ghost Story is about an innocent boy who's punished for his father's bad deeds. Do you think that is fair? Do you think the father should have behaved differently?
Do you think Luna's parents should have been more supportive? How do you think the movie wants us to feel about Luna?
Why are movies about the Mafia so popular?
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