Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Andrea Pallaoro
scr Andrea Pallaoro, Orlando Tirado
prd Gina Resnick, Christina Dow, Eleonora Granata-Jenkinson, Andrea Pallaoro
with Trace Lysette, Patricia Clarkson, Emily Browning, Joshua Close, Adriana Barraza, Graham Caldwell, Ruby James Fraser, Chelo Acosta-Conley, Bobby Easley, Jean Zarzour, Angelique Archer, Ali Amine
release US 12.May.23,
UK 15.Dec.23
22/US 1h46

clarkson browning barraza
venice film fest
bfi flare fest

Is it streaming?

A gently observed drama, this sensitive film follows a woman grappling with her sense of identity. The tone is hushed and a bit weepy, but Italian filmmaker Andrew Pallaoro has a terrific eye for detail, capturing scenes from askance angles that stress emotions rather than plot points. So even if it takes awhile for us to connect with the characters, each is elegantly written and played to perfection.
A beautiful trans woman who works as a masseuse and webcam model, Monica (Lysette) has become adept at deflecting inappropriate comments from strange men. Then she travels back to her small home town to help her brother Paul (Close) and sister-in-law Laura (Browning) care for her terminally ill mother Eugenia (Clarkson), who is being cared for at home by nurse Leticia (Barraza). Monica quietly accepts the fact that her mother doesn't recognise her, and being here gives her the chance to reconnect with her estranged brother. But the situation begins to eat away at her.
Because the script is so elusive, never directly revealing the full truth of why this family fall apart, it continually holds us at arm's length. Much of the dialog is whispered, spoken in such an offhanded way that almost makes us feel like voyeurs eavesdropping on personal conversations. And often we only hear partial snippets of dialog, which leaves us wondering what is being discussed. So as scenes play out in observational ways, it's up to us to connect the dots.

Performances are understated and often unnervingly authentic, letting the camera see right into their souls. With tremendous on-screen presence, Lysette gives Monica a steely exterior while revealing the vulnerabilities of someone who has been repeatedly told that she doesn't belong. Her scenes with Clarkson ripple with intrigue, played with delicate nuance by both actors. Each of Monica's relationships contains astonishing unspoken textures,

When Monica and Paul finally open up to each other, we are able to infer a bit more about their past and, most importantly, why Monica finds it so difficult to be here. Aside from this one conversation, very little is actually put into words, which leaves the film feeling oddly vague. The ideas and feelings swirl around, just slightly out of reach. But when we are able to connect with what's happening here, it's seriously powerful.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 3.Dec.23

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S

send your review to Shadows... Monica Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall