The First Beautiful Thing: Family Drama With a Delicate Touch
If theres a more complicated place than Italy to be a beautiful woman, the filmmaking world has yet to identify it. The First Beautiful Thing, Paolo Virzìs winsome family melodrama, begins with an alluring young mother named Anna (Micaela Ramazzotti) being reluctantly crowned the evenings belle, Miss Mamma, at a community event. The crowds attentiongood-natured at firstveers into the vulgar, and Annas husband (Sergio Albelli) begins to seethe behind his tight smile. The film toggles between what follows that moment in 1971Anna flees her husbands escalating jealous rages with her two children; the trio embark on an itinerant, hand-to-mouth lifeand the present day, in which her son, Bruno (Valerio Mastandrea), and daughter, Valeria (Claudia Pandolfi), tend to a terminally ill but still vivacious Anna (Stefania Sandrelli). Bruno has been guilted into returning to Annas side, having left their hometown of Livorno years before to build a loners life of drug addiction and well-nursed resentments. Brunos contempt for his mother is slowly disentangled from his loathing of provincial Italys treatment of women who dont conform (and look fabulous not doing it). Virzìs delicate touch and the casts uniformly captivating performances make that reckoning a lovely, charmingly melancholy thing to watch.
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