Piero Messina’s L’Attesa premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, and now it’s available to all of us.
What a nice young man, the director of L’Attesa (The Wait), starring Juliette Binoche, and so accomplished at just 34 years old. Messina started filmmaking at 16 and never looked back, working as an assistant director to Paolo Sorrentino on films like La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) and This Must Be The Place when he was in his twenties.
In L’Attesa, Juliette Binoche plays Anna, a mother in mourning who receives an unexpected guest; Jeanne (Lou de Laâge), Anna’s son’s girlfriend, arrives for the Easter holiday and hasn’t heard the news. She enters the darkened Sicilian villa; mirrors are covered and everybody’s in black. She’s clearly confused and concerned, but she’s told that Anna’s brother has died.
Why the lie? Anna stubbornly keeps up the ruse in a desperate attempt to pretend that it isn’t true. As she assures Jeanne that her son will arrive soon, she can put off the horrifying days the lie ahead, the worst nightmare for any mother. Binoche, though a French actress playing a woman born in France, is, here, a Sicilian Mamma to the core, and her stoic intensity pairs with the film’s, at times, dizzyingly strung-out tone.
“Wouldn’t she have found out that he was dead from her friends on Facebook?” I asked Piero. Had I found a flaw in the film?
“The story was set in 2006”, Messina reminded me. And though there technically was a Facebook, very few people were on it, mostly students from select colleges and university. I’d forgotten how much technology has changed in the past 10 years and, sorry Piero! This sad, dark story of a mother (Juliette Binoche) who wants to hold to her son for just a little bit longer is much more realistic than I had believed.
So when Messina was deciding who he wanted to play the tortured, grieving Sicilian mother, there was no choice; he wanted Binoche. It wasn’t until she agreed to be in the film that Piero said to himself, “F*ck! She’s French! She’s a problem!”
But not really.
“She’s the best actress in the world to do this kind of work”, says Messina. “I wanted a great actress; her nationality didn’t matter.”