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ROME 2020

Review: Sirley

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- Elisa Amoruso makes her fiction debut with a highly personal story, based upon her adolescence which was marked by a special friendship and a pair of maladjusted parents

Review: Sirley
Emma Fasano and Manon Bresch in Sirley

Last year, she travelled to Rome with her documentary on child models Bellissime [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
, a work which followed hot on the heels of the rather “noisy” stint enjoyed in Venice by her film on the queen of influencers Chiara Ferragni: Unposted [+see also:
trailer
interview: Elisa Amoruso
film profile
]
. This year, Elisa Amoruso is making her return to Rome with her first work of fiction, and the person laying herself bare on this occasion is the director herself. Presented in the Reflections section of the 15th Rome Film Fest, Sirley [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
is actually a story based upon the director-screenwriter’s teenage years, which were marked by a very special friendship and a pair of maladjusted parents. It’s a work which doesn’t have much to add to the coming of age genre, but it boasts a certain sensitivity and the virtue of authenticity.

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It all begins with a bizarre move to a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Rome in 1989. Nina (14-year-old Emma Fasano, making her first on-screen appearance) steps foot inside her new home, together with her mum Laura (Micaela Ramazzotti), her little brother Lorenzo (Federico Ielapi, Matteo Garrone’s Pinocchio) and an enormous pool table that her father Enzo (Giampaolo Morelli) is convinced he’ll be able to use as a dining table too, to the fury of his wife. Mum and Dad are both a little unhinged, they fight continually but they’re also madly in love. They’ve been forced to leave their apartment in the centre of Rome and move into a block on the city outskirts as a result of Enzo’s gambling debts. A lively and elusive character, he goes out every night and rocks up in a different car every week. Laura would be well advised to leave him but, head over heels in love, she ploughs on. Nina, meanwhile, is disoriented. Her first day at her new school doesn’t bode well given that she comes to blows with quarrelsome classmate Sirley (Manon Bresch), who isn’t much bigger than Nina and who hails from French Guyana. But there’s a fine line between love and hate, and immediately afterwards, despite Sirley not speaking a word of Italian, the two forge an affectionate friendship which slowly grows into something more.

It’s not easy to pinpoint any specific quality which sets this film apart from the countless other coming of age tales that have already come our way, works following in the footsteps of adolescents who are discovering their own forbidden sexual desires, whilst also wrestling with dysfunctional families and responsibilities beyond their understanding. Whatsmore, some aspects of the film don’t feel particularly credible and we can’t help thinking that something’s amiss (what environment do these people really come from? How does Nina speak such good French?). Ramazzotti is once again playing her trademark part (the fragile and dishevelled wife-mother), and the same goes for Morelli, in the shoes of a Neapolitan Gascon which we’ve already seen countless times before. What does stand out, however, is the freshness of the two younger actresses: newcomer Fasano, who conveys the ups and downs of her age with great aplomb, and twenty-year-old Bresch, who’s both wild and beautiful - two girls who are brought together by loneliness and the cumbersome reality of having to live with reckless parents.

Scripted by the director alongside Paola Randi and Eleonora Cimparelli (based upon the book of the same name, written by Amoruso herself), Sirley is produced by BiBi Film and RAI Cinema, and is co-produced by French firm Agat Films & Cie. The film will be released in Italian cinemas on 12 November, courtesy of Bim Distribuzione, with international sales entrusted to Fandango Sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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