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ROME 2020

Review: Shadows

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- Carlo Lavagna’s second feature lacks punch and offers a largely predictable story

Review: Shadows
Saskia Reeves, Lola Petticrew and Mia Threapleton in Shadows

Screened as part of Alice nella Città, the independent section of the Rome Film Fest, Shadows [+see also:
trailer
interview: Carlo Lavagna
film profile
]
is the second feature from Carlo Lavagna. This Italo-Irish co-production follows the director’s feature debut, the teen drama Arianna [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlo Lavagna
film profile
]
.

Written by Fabio Mollo, Damiano Bruè, Vanessa Picciarelli and Tiziana Triana, the story of Shadows follows two sisters, Alma (Mia Threapleton) and Alex (Lola Petticrew, seen recently in the enjoyable comedies A Bump Along the Way [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Shelly Love
film profile
]
and Dating Amber [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), who live with their mother (Saskia Reeves) in an abandoned hotel surrounded by a forest. The woman, strict and bitter, forbids the two girls to leave the hotel during the day and teaches them the basics of hunting and the cultivation of medicinal plants and herbs in order to guarantee their survival. Later, we discover that the world is no longer what it once was and that there might not a living soul left beyond the woods — only the threat of the "Shadows" which prevent the three women from venturing beyond the river, the approximate border of the area they consider to be safe, at least at night.

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From the very beginning, the film tries to create tension through the use of an overly insistent soundtrack, which sometimes attempts to punctuate the directing in a didactic way, and other times is simply out of tune. The three actresses offer good performances overall, though they are not helped by the film’s unconvincing writing and the fluctuating rhythm of the narration, which manages to pick up — if only partly — after the first hour of the film. Several details appear strange and incomprehensible: for example, the three women, abandoned by everything and everyone for years, live in an immense hotel where electricity is still available; or, without revealing the ending, it seems quite surreal that no one has come into contact with them for about ten or fifteen years, and that there is an old magazine with the title "Global disaster" on the front page.

Furthermore, the subject of the film, in the themes explored and dynamics taking place between the characters, closely resembles that of recent horror film Il Nido [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roberto De Feo
film profile
]
by Roberto De Feo. In that film too, a young protagonist was the victim of a possessive mother who sought to protect him from an impending and unknown external threat, keeping him locked up in a huge estate surrounded by a forest where he was forced to learn what was necessary to ensure his survival.

Generally speaking, the main narrative twists of Shadows are largely predictable and do not really offer the viewer anything new, falling short of other titles that have explored similar themes better, such as Lenny Abrahamson's Room [+see also:
film review
trailer
making of
film profile
]
. The good work from the three actresses is the most convincing aspect of the film, even if their performances are not without flaws either — in one scene, for example, one of the three women is seriously injured yet her voice does not seem to be altered by the obvious pain caused by her condition.

Shadows was produced by Ascent Film and Rai Cinema and co-produced with Dublin-based company Feline Films. Italian distribution is handled by Vision Distribution.

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(Translated from Italian)

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