Movie Review: ‘L’Atissa (The Wait)’

“A gorgeously filmed piece of new wave cinema that you will need patience in spades to finish.”

L’Attesa or “The Wait” in English is a very, very narrow film in terms of the audiences that will have the patience to enjoy and finish it. Now, this is not to say that it isn’t a beautiful film. The cinematography is provided by Italian shooter, Francesco Di Giacomo, that as chief imager has worked on a slew of Italian films, but also worked in the camera department on many big budget American films such as U-571 and Hannibal.

This is the first film for director Piero Messina, whom I am told has studied under the great Italian masters. The film stars French actress, Juliette Binoche who will be recognizable to American audiences for her turns in “The English Patient” and “Chocolat” with Johnny Depp. Ms. Binoche is one of the very few actors in this film. She portrays Anna, the mother of Giuseppe, whom we never actually see. The film opens in a very artsy, and vague way, long takes, from far off vantage points with very little light into complete darkness. There isn’t a lick of dialogue, which is subtitled until fifteen minutes into the picture.

The story is ostensibly that of an older woman in mourning in her vast villa in Sicily. There are long shots of the houseman covering the mirrors in the villa with black sheets. We are very aware that something deeply emotional and awful has happened yet the filmmakers are very “chintzy” when it comes to revealing the details. If you enjoy interminable periods of silence, long shots of beautiful scenery, and the face of the subjects in the story, then this film is for you!

The film slowly continues to reveal itself, when a young, pretty “Lolita” arrives on the doorstep of the villa. She, Jeanne is welcomed awkwardly into the maudlin home and given all the comforts, without any actual acceptance of her arrival. Again there is very minimal dialogue, the film is mostly told through pained looks or a naïve smiles. Jeanne played by French starlet Lou de Laage, is the Giuseppe’s lover, summoned to meet him at his mother’s villa. Upon her arrival, it is soon clear that Giuseppe is not present and with really no explanation of his whereabouts, the naïve vixen decides to stays at the home. She explores the villa, reminiscing in Giuseppe’s room, playing his favorite songs and taking lazy walks to the nearby lake with his mother.

Even though she is confused by Giuseppe’s absence, she enjoys her stay; swimming several times in the beautiful Sicilian waters and bonding with his mother. The audience is let in on the fact that Anna is hiding a secret from Jeanne, but is not ready to tell her and seems content and even somewhat happy to learn of her son’s relationship with this young woman.

Jeanne leaves numerous voicemails on his cell phone, that while never answered serves as a clever tool to fill in the backstory of their relationship. While the film leaves so many unanswered questions, Messina does a very good job of keeping you in suspense as to Giuseppe’s whereabouts, that you are on the edge of your seat waiting for the reveal. That is if you haven’t given up and left the theater. It’s unfortunately a 50/50 call given the state of mind your are in when you watch this beautifully lensed film that really doesn’t go anywhere.

If you are the type of person, as I am much of the time that enjoys a meditation on a particular human emotion, in this case grief, then you might enjoy this film. If you are looking for popcorn fare, then go have a nice glass of vino and rent “Die Hard.”

Opens in Theaters April 29th. In LA at The Royal; In NYC at the Landmark Sunshine.

Jonathan Chauser

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