Part true-life crime thriller, part supernatural teen romance, “Sicilian Ghost Story” is not a ghost story in the conventional sense but rather a unique, intriguing tale of being hunted, hidden and haunted told through an effectively dreamlike prism.
Luna (Julia Jedlikowska) and Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez) are 13-year-old classmates living in a Sicilian village. It’s clear that their flirty friendship, with its quasi-Romeo and Juliet dynamic, is headed for deeper closeness despite the concern of the poorer Luna’s eerily austere mother (Sabine Timoteo) and kindlier dad (Vincenzo Amato).
But when Giuseppe goes missing, the smitten Luna becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to him, slowly unraveling — with near-fatal consequences — over the course of what will turn into the boy’s long and mysterious absence.
Meanwhile, we also follow Giuseppe, who has been abducted by mobsters as a ploy to get his father, a Mafia hitman turned informant, to stop talking with local prosecutors. It doesn’t work and, as a shackled, neglected Giuseppe is shuttled from one harsh hideaway to another, he and Luna stay in each other’s hearts and minds.
Writer-directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza have infused their beautifully shot film, which was inspired by an actual 1990s kidnapping case, with a fairy tale’s sense of surrealism alongside its many grim elements. Although the story can feel chilly and oblique, it gets under your skin.
‘Sicilian Ghost Story’
In Italian with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Playing: Starts Dec. 14, Landmark Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles