A nine year-old boy growing up in southern Italy in the late 1970s discovers another young boy, hidden in a hole in the ground by the side of a disused farmhouse. A series of startling revelations involving the boy's family and the local community follow,
Set in the Basilicata region of Italy circa 1978, this pastoral drama shares with other popular exports from the country - Cinema Paradiso, Mediterraneo, Il Postino - the pleasures of the idyllic rural existence.
Director Gabriele Salvatores brings together scriptwriter Niccol Ammaniti's simple words (harvested from his own novel) and cinematographer Italo Petriccione's panoramic imagery in such a carefully nuanced manner, you can almost feel the dry heat and smell the odorous Sicilian cuisine. That's not to say, however, that I'm Not Scared is a picture postcard-perfect travelogue that's likely to appeal solely to the vicarious tourist. There's a lot more going on here than meets the eye, which is something that slowly dawns on the film's pre-adolescent protagonist following his discovery of a feral blind boy, who's chained up in a hole in the ground beside a ruined farm.
Indeed, the superficial pleasures of I'm Not Scared give way to a tense coming-of-age story that plays like a taut thriller. Furthermore, this not being Hollywood, Michele and Filippo do not benefit from life lessons learned as exemplified in coming-of-age pap like Now And Then. The sweet life, this ain't.
Si, si. The beautiful photography will have you booking flights to Sicily, while the unsentimental rites-of-passage drama can't fail to touch your heart.