Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LFF2015: Arianna (2015)

Arianna (Ondina Quadri) is a pensive and shy nineteen-year-old studying Chinese and living with her parents in Rome.  She decides to accompany them on a trip to Tuscany to stay in their old holiday home, which has recently become available after being rented for most of her life, but when they decide that they want to leave early she stays on on her own to study and spend time with her cousin Celeste (Blu Yoshimi).

Arianna has not developed through puberty yet and has still not had her first menstrual cycle, so she quickly becomes fascinated in her developing and sexually awakened cousin.  She also, under guidance of her father (Massimo Popolizio) a doctor, uses hormone replacement patches and visits one of his gynecologist friends.  However, after spending an awkward night with one of Celeste’s male friends, she decides that she wants to change doctors and learn more about her past… 

Although told with a gentle and floating pace, it is easy to guess where the story is heading (especially if you have read The Wasp Factory…) – yet this does not make the film any less interesting.  Arianna debuted in the Debate section of the London Film Festival this year, and contains enough intimacy and empathy to reflect on Arianna’s situation. 

She starts to visit a self-help group and talk frankly for the first time with Celeste about her changing body and feelings.  Yet her time alone in the house as she looks at herself in the mirror, and finds her mother’s old love letters, serve to remind us that sexuality is so often something that is discovered alone.

The contrast between the clinical and blunt conversations with her father and the other gynecologists (especially an intimidating scene where a number of them crowd round her during an inspection) and the tenderness between her and Celeste highlights the power of friendship over medical ‘advice’.  The women throughout the film, with the exception of her mother, show a sensuous solidarity with one another that is so often missing from the vast majority of films that fail the infamous Bechdel Test

Arianna is a film that looks to broaden a conversation about gender and sexuality, and fits comfortably into a zeitgeist with ever improving visibility and acceptance of LGBTIQ people.  And newcomer Ondina Quadri gives a performance that will easily convert you if you still have doubts about the direction of this ever-celebratory movement…

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