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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Man Without Gravity is a 2019 fantasy-drama about the life of a man born with the ability to float weightless in the air. The movie is in Italian with English subtitles. There's some profanity, including "f--k" used several times. Scenes later in the movie center on a seedy hotel used by prostitutes and their customers. Some drinking, cigarette smoking. The movie itself is a beautiful rendering of "magical realism" in the tradition of writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Italo Calvino. The deeper themes of the movie are tailor-made for mature teens, and should inspire discussion about how the movie uses the story to explore themes such as how rare talents can be kept hidden out of fear of society's judgments or used and exploited for money and fame.
What's the story?
In a small rural village, Oscar -- THE MAN WITHOUT GRAVITY -- is born, emerging out of the womb and floating in the air, only kept from floating to the ceiling by his umbilical cord. At the behest of his religious grandmother and protective mother, Oscar is kept indoors in their home, obsessed with Batman while being kept safe from prying gossips and the judgments of the neighbors and their kids. As he gets a little bit older, his Mother devises a way to weigh him down so he can walk on the ground like everybody else, and it's around this time that he befriends Agata, a precocious and confident girl who gifts him her pink book bag to keep him from floating away after the weights in his jacket fall out. Years later, Oscar is a young adult, working as a reading instructor in a ski village, when he sees a television program called "Extraordinary Men" in which people showcase their unusual talents for cash and prizes. Dreaming of success and celebrity, Oscar leaves for the big city to compete in "Extraordinary Men." While his gift for floating begins to create a buzz in the entertainment world, Oscar meets David, a one-hit wonder musician turned unscrupulous manager, who wants to represent Oscar and make him a star. Soon, Oscar is an international sensation, and while he tries to enjoy the benefits of his fame and success, he also feels disconnected from his mother and his own identity. Tired of the pressures of stardom, Oscar seeks to find a balance between reclusion and international celebrity.
Is it any good?
While it's possible to simply enjoy it as a fairy tale, this brilliant and beautiful piece of magical realism is so much more. Like the best magical realism or the fantastic worlds of science fiction, this movie takes a simple premise then extrapolates it into exploring deeper themes relevant to very real concerns. While very much its own fictional world, the world presented in The Man Without Gravity has quite a few similarities to our own -- how we use, misuse, or even exploit our talents, our unhealthy obsessions with fame and celebrity, the feeling of disconnect in a "connected" world.
While this is a movie that can easily be enjoyed by adults, it also seems tailor-made for the kinds of teenagers who are first beginning to see the deeper meanings beneath the surface of a story. Fans of writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Italo Calvino will notice the clear influence their work has on director Marco Bonfanti's sensibilities, and how the characters and story unfold. That said, besides these titans of literature, Batman also has left his mark on the story. Overall, The Man Without Gravity is the kind of movie that warrants and rewards multiple viewings.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about "magical realism." What do you think that term means, and why do you think the term applies to The Man Without Gravity?
What are some of the deeper themes explored in the movie?
The movie frequently makes reference to Batman. Why do you think that is? How are the lead character and Batman similar and different?
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