The Premio Mario Verdone, the prize for young auteurs and their feature debuts was awarded by Carlo, Luca and Silvia Verdone in honor of their father last night at the 18th Lecce European Film Festival, and the winner…
Sara Serraiocco, who proves once again that she is not just another pretty face stars as Giulia, a member of the Jehovah’s Witness in Italy (and who knew that Italy had the 5th largest community of Witnesses?) in La Ragazza Del Mondo (Worldly Girl).
Known for her performances as a blind woman in Salvo and synchronized swimmer Jenny in Cloro , Serraiocco dominates the screen in this unique (spiritual) coming of age movie. The film premiered at Venice Days last year where she and co-star Michele Riondino won Pasinetti Awards for best actress and best actor, and on Monday, director Marco Danieli won the David di Donatello Award for Migliore Regista Esordiente (Best Debut Director).
It’s got a fairly unusual backdrop, the world of the über evangelistic and disciplined religious sect known primarily to the rest of us as the people who knock on your door on Saturday mornings and ask you if you believe in God. Though I’m not the type to chase Witnesses off my porch, it’s obvious that I haven’t ever listened as they’ve described their beliefs, because if nothing else, Worldly Girl is a fascinating education about what life is really like for them (Google search fact-check confirmed 30 seconds after credits rolled).
In her loving but rigorously cloistered existence, continuing education is frowned upon (“Do you want it for God or for own vanity?”) and a relationship with a “worldly person”, those outside their religious community, is a deal-breaker. Giulia, at the top of her high school class, is a shoo-in for a big scholarship, but her parents discourage applying for it. Her teachers, on the other hand, are appalled that they’d impede her bright future.
Sara Serraiocco is just lovely and extremely natural as the conflicted young woman who feels pulled in a hundred different directions and like nobody cares what she wants. The love story with Libero, played by Michele Riondino is intense (and pretty hot, actually), and though he’s a bad boy, I found myself feeling sympathetic to the struggle of the mismatched couple.
Giulia’s mom and dad, played by Marco Leonardi and Lucia Mascino couldn’t have done a better job of playing the cuddly parents/inflexible believers who are “all in” very literally when it comes to the “my-way-or-the-highway” method of parenting.