Marco Amenta’s stirring “The Sicilian Girl” is based on the life of Rita Atria, a 17-year-old woman who avenged her father’s death by turning against the Mafia that ran her village of Balata. In 1991, she violated the “Omerta” by providing the Palermo District Attorney’s office with the notebooks she had filled since his murder and the killing of her brother. Taken into witness protection under a new identity in Rome, she constantly fears for her life. Actress Veronica D’Agostino gives a performance that is both strong and wild; she has a pugnacious face, freckle-sprayed, adamantine-eyed, with a strong jaw. Brief moments of joy as well as her fearful or righteous moments register boldly across her features. Rita does not forgive. Her performance glosses over the less-than-inspired or predictable scenes. Typical of Amenta’s blunt visual devices, which grow more assured as the melodrama grows, is an early pair of scenes where tomato sauce drawn on white sheets on a clothesline is followed soon after by a father’s blood on a girl’s white Communion dress. There’s a breathtaking shot that captures Rita’s arrival in Rome, where a van door opens and we are meters away from a very recognizable landmark: it’s a sweet coup de theatre. His eye for faces is equally bold, down to the last extra in a square or a courtroom. Fierce characteristics shy of caricature predominate. Gérard Jugnot, despite indifferent Italian post-dubbing, is the soul of rectitude as the proud prosecutor. (The village location is the same as used by Giuseppe Tornatore in “Cinema Paradiso.”) 110m. (Ray Pride)
“The Sicilian Girl” opens Friday at the Music Box. The trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.