In Juliette Binoche’s previous project in Italy — Abbas Kiarostami’s Tuscany-set Certified Copy (2010) — the French star emoted big, her rococo performing style and frequent hysteria nearly asphyxiating the viewer.
Playing a grieving mother named Anna in Piero Messina’s Sicily-shot feature debut, L’Attesa (The Wait), the actress somehow makes even her long stretches of silence ring clamorously; her minimalist gestures are always maximized and engorged. Binoche’s hushed histrionics, though, are of a piece with the fruity portentousness of L’Attesa, which Messina wrote with three others, freely adapting Luigi Pirandello’s 1923 play The Life I Gave You.
The film’s premise strains credulity: Anna, first seen at her son Giuseppe’s funeral, unexpectedly becomes a hostess when his girlfriend, Jeanne (Lou de Laâge), flies in from Paris to visit. The younger woman is unaware that Giuseppe is dead, and Anna insists on concealing the truth, telling her guest that he’ll be back for Easter dinner — the resurrected-son theme just one of the movie’s many inane religious motifs. (There are more cowled figures skulking in slo-mo throughout this dream-pop-scored film than in all of Enigma’s Nineties videos.)
Messina, like Paolo Sorrentino, for whom he worked as an assistant director on The Great Beauty (2013), is a hack voluptuary, training the camera on a plastic cup as it rolls on a desk or on an inflatable pink pool mattress as it is carried by the wind in front of Anna’s villa. The latter item at least makes it off the ground; everything else in L’Attesa sinks and buckles.
L’Attesa (The Wait)
Directed by Piero Messina
Opens April 29, Landmark Sunshine