Fortunata (Jasmine Trinca) is a single mother living in one of the rougher parts of Rome. She has an eight-year-old daughter Barbara (Nicole Centanni) and barely makes a living as a hairdresser. She is always rushing to the next job and sometimes leaves Barbara with her business partner and childhood friend, a bi-polar junkie called Chicano (Alessandro Borghi). Her parenting and indeed, entire lifestyle, disturbs her soon-to-be ex-husband, Franco (Edoardo Pesce), a violent manipulator who is using the legal system to sue for custody of young Barbara.
Fortunata’s time with her daughter can be troublesome; the girl doesn’t enjoy her schooling and her defiant in-class behaviour has led to a course of treatment with a state-paid child psychologist called Patrizio (Stefano Accorsi). After initially being suspicious of the man, Fortunata finds herself attracted to him. She doesn’t pursue this because the pressures on her won’t let up. Her life is filled with the daily-grind of a poorly-paid job, a problematical family life and the threats, both legal and physical, issuing from the ex-husband. She dreams of running her own hairdressing salon and enters the lottery hoping to help get this business off the ground.
Director Sergio Castellitto has made half-a-dozen features, but is still better known as a veteran actor with 80 different credits to his name. In this latest directorial effort, he has again collaborated with his screenwriter wife Margaret Mazzantini. They have made a drama which slips eventually into soapiness. The numerous scenes are almost always buzzing with energy. Stillness and tranquility is not what this story, nor the lead character, is about; there are a scant handful of nearly silent scenes that stand out as a result. Fortunata is a “spinning top” of a character, who avoids self-reflection, but rather acts or reacts. Her daughter has had to develop some inner-resources to deal with this emotionally-percolating parent. There are moments when Barbara has to be the adult. The numerous scenes between mother and daughter are terrific, as you sense the changing dynamic between the adult and the child. This woman is the girl’s entire world, but will this be enough?
The first half is the stronger, however there are good scenes all the way through. The overall structure doesn’t quite deliver, but what we do get is considerable in the relationship between Fortunata and Barbara. Trinca rightly won a Best Actress prize in the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes; her performance is multi-layered and excellent. Young Nicole Centanni as Barbara is also very watchable.
FORTUNATA has some beautifully-directed sequences, a noteworthy lead performance and an audience-engaging sense of melodrama. 103 minutes. Seen as part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2017. In Italian with English Subtitles. (7/10)
FORTUNATA is playing at the Cinema Paradiso in Northbridge and the Luna on SX in Fremantle. Check the guide for days and times.