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By Bret McCabe | Posted

Contemporary life on the Italian island of Lampedusa cycles in a rhythm that feels ages old--the men fish the crystalline Mediterranean, the women work in the cannery, and the boys run in packs across the sun-baked earth, harassing each other and trying to convince girls to go "someplace" with them. Grazia (Valeria Golino) doesn't quite fit in. This wife and mother of three is either too happy or too sad, and her unpredictable outbursts--swimming topless at the beach, destroying the kitchen after her husband disciplines their son Pasquale (Francesco Casisa), setting loose dogs that the men shoot from their rooftops--makes the entire town want to send her to Milan for a "cure." With Pasquale's help, Grazia hides, the town and her husband believing her dead. Director Emanuele Crialese pulls a sly trick with Respiro. What starts as a neo-realistic update becomes a contemporary Euro cinema study of small communities (Beau Travail, Humanité, et al.) and concludes as an imagistic idyll--though you suspect that its moody final reel camouflages a story with no place to go.

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