Palace Nova Cinemas
Review by Geoff Jenke
Moro Italian Film Festival
Season commences at Palace Nova 12 May 2022
From multi award-winning writer/director Jonas Carpignano (A Ciambra, Mediterranea), TO CHIARA is a searing, gripping and remarkably poignant drama about a Calabrian teenage girl who learns some difficult truths about her close-knit family.
Gioia Tuara, Southern Italy. The Guerrasio family and their friends gather to celebrate the 18th birthday of Guilia, the eldest daughter of Claudio and Carmela. There is a healthy rivalry between the birthday girl and her 15-year-old sister Chiara (Swamy Rotolo) – who’s clearly Dad’s favourite – though it’s a happy occasion. But Chiara gradually senses that something is very wrong, and then… her father disappears.
Chaira’s mother exudes reassurances to her three daughters but offers no clear explanation, so the teenager begins her own investigations. The more Chiara learns, the more she is forced to decide what kind of future she wants for herself. Ingeniously structured and building to a thrilling climax.
Although the film starts in an aimless, itinerant way, we become part of Guilia’s 18th birthday, we are soon immersed in the characters, not all of whom are good people as it appears. If fact this is a mafia/gangster movie as seen by the young Chiara and as all good gangster movies do (The Godfather), it starts with a party.
The pace quickens as Chiara tries to work out why and how her father disappears until she comes to a crossroad and must decide what is the best course of action for her as a person.
Interestingly, director Jonas Carpignana casts six actual members from the same (Rotolo) family to play the main characters of the film. Given the film is all about family, this works well.
The movie appears to be filmed with hand held camera’s, which often panned too quickly and we were always in the actors faces. There are very few long shots. I feel it is probably best to sit towards the back of the cinema if watching this movie. Like the subject matter, the film is also very dark. There are no sunny days on screen.
In the end, To Chaira is a tense, dramatic film that is well acted. Once you get through the extremely slow beginning, the movie becomes a terrific gangster type film.