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Review: Mysteries abound in 'Sicilian Ghost Story'

Review: Mysteries abound in 'Sicilian Ghost Story'
Julia Jedlikowska in the movie "Sicilian Ghost Story." (Giulia Parlato / Strand Releasing)

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).

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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.

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‘Sicilian Ghost Story’

In Italian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Playing: Starts Dec. 14, Landmark Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles

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