Respiro (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Italian language film, Respiro, is a touch of magical realism, Sicilian style, based upon an old local legend:

The legend:


Valeria Golino swims topless. There is an upskirt in which she may or may not be wearing underwear.

A small-minded and insulated island community ostracized a free-spirited young mother, because they were unable to relate to her mood swings and unfettered behavior. Many thought she was insane. She disappeared one day, leaving no clue, no note, no trace except her clothing abandoned on the beach. The townspeople felt guilty for causing her to commit suicide in the sea, but their prayers brought her back to life, whereupon she resumed normal life with her family.

The film's interpretation:

The Sicilian wife (Valeria Golino) was subject to severe mood swings and fits which could only be controlled through medication. She refused to follow everyone else's rules. She freed all the wild dogs, she swam topless in view of the local fishermen, and she had a very strange, pseudo-incestuous relationship with her oldest son. The townspeople, especially her mother-in-law, felt that she should be sent to Milan for treatment of her mental condition. Golino didn't much care for that whole Milan plan, so she conspired with her oldest son to fake her own disappearance. The townspeople then mourned her as dead, realized what they had lost, and talked about her as if she were a Saint.

How did the film end? I won't tell you. I probably should pretend that I am deliberately holding back to avoid a spoiler, but in reality, I don't know what the hell happened. The magic and the realism got intertwined, and then the credits started rolling.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features

It's a film for the turtle neck crowd, thus too arty and subtle for me. There is very little dialogue. The characters speak in single, simple sentences or even just grunts, and the people in this film slap each other more often than the skipper bopped Gilligan with his hat. Literary types will find foreshadowing and lots of symbolism in the fate of trapped animals on the island, symbolizing Golino's own feeling of entrapment in the provincial fishing village.

I found it more soporific than a Hugh Hudson film festival.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 4/5.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.0/10, Yahoo voters B-.
  • Box office: it grossed a million dollars on a maximum of 32 screens.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C-. It got some excellent reviews from respected reviewers, and some awards, thus mandating at least a C-. It is a film for a miniscule arthouse audience. In Italian, with subtitles.

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