LFF Review: The Wait (Piero Messina, 2015, Italy)

Director – Piero Messina
Producers – Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Carlotta Calori
Screenwriters – Giancomo Bendotti, Ilaria Macchia, Andrea Paolo Massara, Piero Messina
Starring – Juliette Binoche, Lou de Laâge, Giorgio Colangeli

The Wait is a beautifully painful 100 minutes in your life. It’s an imminent relief when a script and camera are in such harmony, there’s not a single superfluous word or sigh, nor a take or an angle out of place, creating an inimitable atmosphere of sheer tension. Everything has its own place and adds up to the overall experience of uncomfortable honest, grief and pain.

Juliette Binoche plays the character of Anna, a grief-stricken mother, who has recently lost her son.  She reveals the secret traits of her role gradually, with grace and balance. It’s an effortless half-smile here and there, a warm look or subtle gesture, a broken movement, all making her relatable and believable. Lou de Laâge is equally superb as the repenting girlfriend, Jeanne. They both impatiently wait for the return of Giuseppe on Easter Day, and it doesn’t give too much away to state that resurrection, tradition and religion are at the core of the story. In The Wait mother and girlfriend set out on a journey of discovery together in an old villa tucked away in a remote corner of Sicily. It is an emotional journey where they start out shyly, just about to getting to know each other and not used to these exceptional circumstances. They hold on to each other for support, revealing painful secrets, inner doubts, insecurities and cherished moments as they help each other through the ordeal of losing a respective son and boyfriend. However, at the same time, there is natural tension, and they push each other away, creating an emotional teeter-totter experience. Their personal discoveries are accompanied by the presence of ageing ‘servant’, who acts as a constant reminder to the mother of her conscience.

The tension is constantly palpable throughout the film. There is not a moment when you don’t wish with a nervous fist in your tummy: “please tell her! Is she finally gonna tell her?!” The long takes, silent, almost imperceptible moves are sometimes accompanied by calm music to further the pain of waiting. The title could not be more true to the essence of the film. As the audience, you don’t do anything else but eagerly await, so to deliver a film with this much dense meaning with so little dialogue is indeed a cinematic achievement. 

Nonetheless, the location and costume designers, casting directors, and art department are all to be applauded too. The natural feeling, the authenticity of the house, village, traditions and characters adds up to the experience. Every shot of the surrounding lake or woods, the tour to the turkish baths, the interior design of the house, the colour of dresses, and much more, they all serve to enhance every moment with additional, deeper levels of meaning.

Written by Zsofia Szemeredy

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