June 15th, 2022
MOVIE: BLESSED BOYS
STARRING: GIANFELICE IMPARATO, LUIGI CHIOCCA, FRANCESCO PELLEGRINO
DIRECTED BY: SILVIA BRUNELLI
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There are numerous films being released this month that help us to celebrate and explore various aspects of LGBTQ pride. Blessed Boys, the feature film debut by Italian writer/director Silvia Brunelli, is having a brief run via Tribeca at Home before it gets a wider theatrical release this fall. It’s an excellent story of love and friendship, about two people connected, and growing closer as they grow up. The results are rich with passion and emotions, in an unpredictable romance, worthy of capturing now before it has its U.S. release. Blessed Boys is an exceptional drama of sexual awakenings.
The Italian title of the film is La Santa Piccola, which actually translates into English as The Little Saint. While that title provides a sense of what one portion of this film is about, Blessed Boys doesn’t have as much weight. This could hurt the film’s ability to attract an audience which would be a shame as there is much to admire and recommend. The primary focus is on Mario (Vincenzo Antonucci) and Lino (Francesco Pellegrino), two long-time friends (there’s nothing particularly “blessed” about them…) who have lived their lives in Naples and are now entering adulthood. At the start of the film, Lino’s sister Annaluce (Sofia Guastaferro) is hailed a saint for seemingly bringing a bird back to life and then appearing to do the same with another significant character later. This presents a problem for Lino who has taken on the breadwinner role in the family. His single mother offers little in terms of financial and emotional support as she spends most of her time smoking and staring off into nothingness.
As the townspeople begin to flock around young Annaluce, bringing her gifts that take over the family’s small apartment, Lino is forced to spend the night in Mario’s bed. Initially this seems like a no-brainer for the young men as they have the type of relationship that is physical, in an Italian, macho manner. They jump on each other, hug, and kiss but don’t think anything of it because their culture is physically demonstrative. Too many close-minded Westerners would be aghast at how physically close they are but if you’re going to view this film, you’re already a bit more enlightened and aware of cultural differences. One night the guys go to a club where they meet a woman who invites them to participate in a group sex act. During this experience Mario has a revelation: his feelings for Lino are much more sexual than he ever considered.
What follows is something more complicated than a “will they or won’t they” series of scenes. Instead, the progression of their relationship is regularly interrupted by the situation with Annaluce. Mario is less tied to anything. He is clearly on the verge of manhood and thus ready to explore his feelings and a new life. Lino is told he needs to grow up as he remains chained to his family, their issues, and his neighborhood. Adding to this, what I loved about Brunelli’s direction is that she frames everything in tight, claustrophobic shots. The characters’ motorcycle rides are on streets with buildings that provide no outside perspective. We wonder if they’re even aware of a life outside this town. Alleys, stairways, hallways, and bars all have a constrictive feeling. Even the soccer field where they play with their buddies is surrounded by the frame of a building making it seem more like a prison than an open field. These are important visual choices for they emphasize just how closed in the characters have become in their lives. Mario is the first to see there is something more outside their cocoon when he takes the time to look out at the sea and contemplate his new affection for Lino.
The young actors playing Mario and Lino are beautifully cast. Francesco Pellegrino as Lino has the range to show the character’s various sides, from boyishness to anger and from innocence to a darker sexual presence that perhaps even Lino is unaware is within him. Vincenzo Antonucci as Mario expresses everything with his eyes. The looks he gives Lino reveal everything the character is discovering about himself. There is one scene, which I won’t give away here, which is erotic with layers of intimacy and given a full opportunity to shine, thanks to Brunelli’s very skillful direction of these actors.
There is also a fascinating narrative structure that provides multiple perspectives. This isn’t just Lino’s story, although we do spend much more time with him than Mario, it is equally Mario’s and even some of the minor characters’ that inhabit this small world. While some might find that this creates a lack of focus, I loved what Brunelli created. We don’t need that much time with Mario. It is clear where his head is at. Lino and his family are much more complex. He’s a character that still needs to find different parts of himself which do get tapped into throughout the film. However, he needs more time to sort out who he is and who he wants to be.
Blessed Boys is a sexy coming of age film that I can’t recommend enough. It’s equally dramatic as it is comedic. There have always been, and probably always will be, films about the coming out process. It’s hard not to be reminded of the burgeoning sexual feelings between close male friends that we’ve seen in other films such as Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho and Alfonso Cuaron’s Y tu Mama Tambien. Each one hopefully shines a new light on the many approaches LGBTQ people take on that journey. Blessed Boys offers insight into how the process takes on its own unique qualities in all corners of life, or in this case, a small neighborhood in Southern Italy.
BLESSED BOYS IS PLAYING ONLINE FOR A LIMITED TIME VIA TRIBECA AT HOME. FOR TICKETS AND A LINK TO THE SCREENER, GO TO: https://tribecafilm.com/films/blessed-boys-2022.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Dan Pal