I'm Not Scared

(Io Non Ho Paura)

The coming-of-age story usually revolves around some sexual situation or tragedy that a young child goes through. The experience of said event is enough to cause the child to realize some new insight about life, thereby ending his/her childhood and beginning his/her tentative steps into adulthood. I'm Not Scared is different, in that it touches more upon suspense and horror that the aforementioned experiences. The young boy here, Michele (Giuseppe Cristiano, Bagnomaria), discovers that nothing is what it seems, especially where his parents are involved. Michele lives a pretty idyllic existence. His family lives in a small village somewhere in the boonies of Italy. There are a few other families with children, and the children seem to have nothing to do but run around the never-ending stalks of wheat.

It's a beautiful setting that director Gabriele Salvatores (Amnesia, Another World is Possible), who adapted the novel of the same name with the author, Niccolo Ammaniti, films lovingly. He does this to contrast the calm setting with the tone of the film, which is one of impending danger. Michele's life changes when he discovers a hole behind an abandoned house. When he looks into the hole, he finds another boy about his age. This boy, Filippo (Mattia Di Pierro) is a shocking sight. In fact, it takes a couple of trips by Michele to determine that what he sees is a boy. Filippo is disheveled, malnourished, and clearly not in his right mind. The hole is covered with a large piece of metal, and Michele is not sure how long Filippo has been there. So every time he opens the lid, Filippo slinks back into the shadows. He is unused to the light, so he wraps his dirty blanket around his body, causing him to look like some sort of wraith.

Still, Michele is a young boy, and extremely curious. He continues to go back to the hole in the ground, each time learning a little more about the boy and the circumstances surrounding him. Michele's father, Pino (Dino Abbrescia, Soul Mate, Beside Myself) has an unmentioned job that takes him away from home for long periods of time, but he's home, and soon brings Sergio (Diego Abatauono, Amnesia, Momo), a creepy older man that will stay in Michele's room with him. Sergio also piques Michele's interest, and he peeks behind a door barely ajar and listens to their conversations. He soon learns that there is a connection between Filippo and Sergio and many of the parents, and he is torn at what to do. He is loyal to his father, yet has found a new friend in Filippo.

Cristiano gives a very credible performance. He acts like a normal kid, not like an actor playing a kid. It is fully believable that some kid would be extremely frightened at first, then go back to explore some more. Because of the remoteness of everything, Salvatores paces things a little slowly, which does detract a little from the suspense. Things do pick up considerably at I'm Not Scared moves towards the end, when everything begins to come together.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Italian with English subtitles, Rated R for disturbing images and language.

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