Review: In ‘Amanda,’ a surly loner drums up her own drama — but she’s not insufferable

A young woman walks outdoors alone
Benedetta Porcaroli in the movie “Amanda.”
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What makes Amanda (Benedetta Porcaroli), an aimless and emotionally stunted 24-year-old Italian woman living on her wealthy family’s dime, worth spending time with? It isn’t that she fills her days with solo outings to the movies, or that she almost drowned in a pool as a child.

Her acrid charm, as seen in debuting writer-director Carolina Cavalli’s portrait of arrested development, lies in the resolute stance she takes against anyone who demands she seek more out of life. Refusing to fulfill her potential (whatever that may be) is her rebellion. Yet her lack of meaningful relationships, both platonic and romantic, troubles her enough that she makes a concerted effort to reach out to others — in her own awkward manner.

Cavalli’s “Amanda” has tonal shades of the sardonic quirkiness of 2001’s “Amélie,” as well as the offbeat female friendship central to something like “Ghost World.” Her film, however, is uninterested in diagnosing the root cause of her protagonist’s behavior, instead embracing her social inadequacy unapologetically.


With steadfast fury, Porcaroli nails the acerbic entitlement of her character, which makes it easy to side with her family when they ask that Amanda pull her weight working in their pharmacies. The ultimate betrayal comes when the clan’s fed-up, middle-aged Latin American housekeeper, Judy (Ana Cecilia Ponce), Amanda’s sole pal besides a solitary horse, informs her that she is no longer allowed to hang out with her outside the home.

Two women walk with a white horse
From left, Galatéa Bellugi and Benedetta Porcaroli in Carolina Cavalli’s movie “Amanda.”

Throughout Amanda’s deadpan misadventures — trying to find a boyfriend, rekindling her bond with childhood friend Rebecca (Galatéa Bellugi) — Cavalli shoots her lead actor in sun-drenched wide shots walking from one small-town location to the next with the determination of a righteous warrior alone against the world: a potent stride and a blank face. There’s an equally amusing and infuriating self-importance to Porcaroli’s stellar performance that we ultimately understand as Amanda masking fissures in her corrosive personality.

Meanwhile, Rebecca faces her own mental health crisis. No warm displays of affection transpire between them, yet in the combative nature of their bond, a shared alienation somehow bridges the distance.

Cavalli populates her idiosyncratic debut with an assortment of complicated female characters, each marinating in apathy, from Amanda’s hilariously expressionless mother to her Christ-obsessed young niece. That Amanda consistently validates the girl’s religious interests without inserting judgment communicates a strong desire to spare the next generation from growing up feeling ostracized. It’s in the pointed care the director puts in every bizarre interaction that the film finds its footing.

As much as Amanda may seem like an irredeemable antihero, you come to appreciate her unspoken dream of finding fulfillment in the company of at least one other person on her crooked wavelength. May we all be so lucky to find someone with whom we can walk on whatever winding, unlikable path we choose.




Not rated

In Italian with English subtitles

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Playing: Starts July 7 at Laemmle Royal