Respiro (2002): Movie Review
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Respiro (2002): Movie Review

Respiro is an Italian film about Grazia, a lively mother to three children and wife to a handsome but meek fisherman. Despite all the issues and her own illness, Grazia has redeemed herself in the end. Respire is film of abstracts and symbols, of contrasts and analogies, of pain and happiness, and of freewill and freedom.

Respiro is a2002 award-winning Italian film. Written  and directed by Emanuele Crialese, the movie stars Valeria Golino, Vincenzo Amato and Francesoc Casisa. Respire means a “breath” in Italian language.

Plot. The film is the story of a wild- and free-spirited mother and her redemption as a human and as a person.

Grazia is married to shy fisherman Pietro and a mother of three sons. The family lives on a small peaceful fishing village on the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea. Behind her jovial personality, Grazia is suffering from manic depressive behavior. Her moods are swinging. Sometimes, she would swim naked on the beach; at times, she would be laughing hysterically; and at other times, she would sulk in bed. Her condition is not a secret to the whole village and to the adult members of her extended family. Occasionally, they think of sending her to a facility in Northern Italy.

Of all her sons, Pasquale is the most attached to Grazia. At fourteen, he already assumes more of a parental role with his mother.

When Pietro sends one of Grazia’s dogs away, she freaks and stealthily sets all the stray dogs free in the town’s kennel. The dogs make a serious damage in the entire island. Furious, the townspeople demand that Pietro do something about Grazia. Hence, he tells Grazia his plans of sending her to Northern Italy. This makes her even madder, and so she runs away and hides in a cave on the shore.

Pasquale soon finds her. Secretly, he tends his mother by bringing her food and clothes every day. A search has been done and Pasquale goes along with the people. When he perceives that the team is very close to finding Grazia, Pasquale sets a ruse by leaving Grazia’s clothes, the ones she was wearing the day she disappeared, by the edge of the sea.

Pietro eventually finds the dress. Everyone then presumes that Grazia has drowned. Despite all the discouragements, Pietro continues searching for his wife, and just before the celebration of an important religious festival, he sees her swimming in the sea. He dives into the water and pursues Grazia, thinking that a miracle has happened. The villagers also believe it to be a miracle, product of the festival, and soon follow Pietro into the water. Everyone encircles Grazia and brings her safe to shore.


Commentary. Respiro is a life-affirming film, full of theatricality, bursting with energy and heat, yet at the same time, sad and doubting.

Welcome to Lampedusa, an isolated and serene island in the Mediterranean. As the film portrays it, the island serves a lonely and monotonic backdrop against Grazia’s overly happy and colorful outlook in life. The island is indeed the exact opposite of Grazia. Lampedusa is struggling for development, but Grazia is content with her simple life with Pietro and their three sons. Yet, Lampedusa is desolate and sad while Grazia is free and careless.

All throughout the film, the island is seen as being far from maturity, so do all the townspeople. Everyone is superstitious and dreamless. For Pietro, his love for Grazia, has blinded him to not do the right thing. He only covers his face in shame every time he sees his wife and kids swimming naked on the shore. For Grazia, her tireless energy and mood shifts make her less of a mother and wife, and less of a normal person. Everyone may not be mature, except for Pasquale who always looks after his siblings and mother, and who can stand for the things he believes in.

From the beginning, it is clear that Grazia has an illness. But the movie failed to properly address the illness and instead, created an entertainment out of it. Grazia is a character far from norm, a figure from impossibility. The sad part is that the people exalted Grazia’s return in the end. Their perception of a miracle is somewhat backward and ridiculous. Grazia has only escape from healing again.

In the end, Lampedusa has remained what it is from the beginning – dull, sad, and hopeless. The same is true with Grazia – lovely, lively, and hopeless.

Reception. Director Crialese won the Critics Week Grand Prize and the Young Critics Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Related Reviews of Foreign Language Films: Monsieur Lazhar, Himala, Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Frozen Flower, The Counterfeiters

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Comments (8)

Great review. Well done!

Well done Guims!

Great review as usual kabayan!

This is a superb movie and I so much enjoyed your review. Thumbs up, my dear friend!

This film is very beautiful and unusual. Really, at some point, you start to understand the young woman and her struggle, her desire to change things and to escape... This is not an easy one, psychologically. 

You make the film sound fascinating. I'll watch out for it. Might get it on LoveFilm!

I'm going to download the movie now

I like your commentary - a good review!