The idyllic, sunny Italian countryside in 1978 is the setting for this terrific drama based on the prize-winning novel by Niccolò Ammaniti. Imaginative, independent ten-year-old Michele (the superb Cristiano) and his younger sister Maria explore the cornfields and abandoned shacks outside their small village with their young friends. When Maria loses her glasses after the kids have played at a run-down farmhouse, Michele returns to get them and uncovers a concealed well that is the prison of a young, terrified boy of his own age, chained at the ankle and almost mad from fear, hunger and dehydration.
This discovery looks set to change young Michele’s life for ever, as his small community provides only a few suspects, including the newly arrived, boorish Sergio, and his own parents (his mother, Anna, is played by Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, best known outside Europe as Keanu Reeves’s co-star in A Walk in the Clouds).
A tense, disquieting coming-of-age film, I’m Not Scared deservedly won a handful of festival awards and nominations, including the Audience Award at the European Union Film Festival. Beautifully filmed against a luscious backdrop (the Puglia and Basilicata regions of southern Italy, in case the stunning landscapes inspire you to book a holiday), it’s an atmospheric, unsentimental and utterly riveting tale for teens and adults, well worth catching for the impressive performances, most notably from the children, who give subtle turns that Hollywood child actors should aspire to.
Is I’m Not Scared suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
There is nothing truly scary but the sight of the child, chained up, is very upsetting.