'Piuma' ('Feather'): Venice Review

Courtesy of Venice Film Festival
A lightweight for locals.

Two Roman high school kids and their families deal with an unwanted pregnancy in Roan Johnson's comedy.

There’s nothing really objectionable about the well-acted Italian teen comedy Piuma (Feather) other than the fact it’s embarrassingly lightweight for the Venice competition.

Shot with a fresh-faced young cast in the expressive, if limited, jargon of Italo teens, it deals superficially with teen pregnancy and brushes on some of the social woes of the day, such as the high rate of unemployed youth. But there is no feeling of looking more deeply into the characters' lives, and easy resolution is key for this contemporary example of good, clean family fare Italian style. It made Venice’s Italian audiences laugh out loud and can be counted on to score well at the local box office and then on television, but its humor, based on typical turns of phrase and reactions, is unlikely to work well anywhere else.

The story has a lot in common with Anglo-Italian director Roan Johnson’s second feature, Fino a qui tutto bene (All Good So Far) describing the light-hearted life of students living together. In Piuma, Ferro (Luigi Fedele) and Cate (Blu Yoshimi Di Martino, who played Nanni Moretti’s daughter in Quiet Chaos) are taking their high school finals, prepping a graduation trip to Morocco with their friends, and also planning to have a baby. They view sudden parenthood as the result of “a colossal screw-up” and neither they, nor their lower middle-class parents, are ready. Abortion is considered, or giving the baby up for adoption, but this is the sort of dreamy, optimistic comedy where only one ending is possible.

Johnson's screenplay is smooth, fast-paced and persuasive. The protagonists are particularly well-cast. Fedele brings a sense of glib self-irony to the role of the boy but also an inner strength (he thinks of himself as a samurai) that sees him float through hard times. Or rather swim, in the film’s one special effects shot of the actors swimming high above the city, which is repeated at the end. As Cate, Di Martino (who is sometimes credited simply as Blu Yoshimi) matches the calm of a pregnant Madonna with the realistic anxieties of a girl from the slums.

Technically the film looks like standard television.

Venue: Venice Film Festival (Competition)
Production companies: Palomar, Sky Cinema
Cast:  Luigi Fedele, Blu Yoshimi Di Martino, Sergio Pierattini, Michela Cescon, Francesco Collela, Brando Pacitto, Francesca Turrini, Bruno Sgueglia, Clara Alonso 
Director-screenwriter: Roan Johnson
Producers: Carlo Degli Espositi, NoraBarbieri, Nicola Serra, Maria Stella Ziggioti
Director of photography: Davide Manca
Production designer: Mauro Vanzati
Costume designer: Andrea Cavalletto
Editors: Paolo Landolfi, Davide Vizzini
Music: Lorenzo Tomio
Casting: Dario Ceruti
True Colours

No rating; 98 minutes