Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2015 7:20 am 
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MELISSA MONTI AND MATILDA ANNA INGRID LUTZ IN MY NAME IS MAYA

Two sisters' briefly escape from foster care in this slight coming-of-age tale

In this attractive but slight film set mostly in Rome two young sisters are left alone when their briefly charismatic mother (who's great with horses) is killed in a car accident. Since social services are compelled to put them in separate foster care, even send one of them to America, because they have different fathers, they decide to run away together. Most of the time is spent with 16-year-old Niki (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) and serves as a kind of high speed coming of age story. Her 8-year-old sister Alice (Melissa Monti) is relegated to the background. In the course of three days Niki gets a piercing and a punk hairdo and loses her virginity with a handsome young street performer, a mangia-fuoco (fire eater, played by Giovanni Anzaldo, recently seen in Paolo Virzì's Human Capital), perhaps falls in love. She doesn't find a new life but she certainly tries on grownup lifestyles for a vengeance. How much of a stretch for her these are we hardly know since we saw little of her pre-runaway life. As all this is going on a dorky, nice social worker called Ceci is gently in the background.

he film as a whole is mildly colorful, but has little emotional heft. There are no real hard knocks -- not even emotional ones -- and the setups occasionally, sometimes obviously, strain credulity. The girls' life with their mother is vaguely glamorous, and seems to revolve around horses. Mom is seen taming an unruly stallion men can't seem to calm down. All the horses are beautiful thoroughbreds. Later the girls talk about how nice it was in the Camargue, around all the wild horses. Did they do anything else? Of course the accident that kills their mother is a hard knock. But we are clearly warned that it's coming. Mom leads the girls in one of those cliché mad in car singalongs and it's obvious she's not paying attention to her driving. Lookout! Yet the event is shown from above to indicate it's not her fault but the other driver's. That little Alice gets a broken arm, and Niki is unscathed, while the mom is instantly killed, is -- miraculous.

So are, in a milder way, the things that happen from there on. The girls just happen to run into the two young women they know who lead to the adventures. For young female viewers, this might add up to an entertaining film, but its content is a bit thin for adults.

All the attention is on the teen coming-of-age adventures of Nike (who when dolled up calls herself Niki on a whim), with a little screen time given to the shy, nice social worker on the girls's case, Ceci (the
handsome Valeria Solarino done up to look plain). Other cast members provide momentary local color. The film's best aspect is its authentic use of locations, which shows the filmmaker's (and dp Davide Manca's) solid documentary experience; but Niki's adventures don't go beyond the conventional for such tales.

My Name Is Maya/Mi chiamo Maya, 95 mins., debuted Apr.-May 2015 at BA Film Festival, Cineteca Milano, and Rome Independent Film Festival. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco Film Society's New Italian Cinema series where it was shown to the public Friday, November 13, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

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