Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed
THE beautiful island of Sardinia, just off the Italian mainland,
was once referred to by a native politician as the Wild
West of Italy, due to its lawless and unsafe history. Between
1960 and 1992, for instance, there were 178 reported child kidnappings,
according to the New York Times.
One of the most infamous was the kidnapping of eight-year-old,
Farouk Kassam, the son of an Emerald Coast hotel manager, who,
in 1992, suffered the loss of an ear, when his father failed to
deliver the ransom on time. The incident shocked a nation.
Gabriele Salvatores' beautiful, but haunting, thriller, Im
Not Scared, exists in such murky territory, but far from becoming
another exploitative kidnap thriller, expertly taps into the fears
of its young protagonists, serving as a smart little coming-of-age
tale into the bargain.
Giuseppe Cristiano stars as ten-year-old villager, Michele, who,
while playing near an abandoned house in the lush, golden fields
near his home, stumbles upon another ten-year-old (Mattia Di Pierros
Filippo), who has been stashed in an earthy, grey underground
At first scared, but then curious, Michele starts to befriend
Filippo and the two form an unlikely alliance, built around the
basis that Michele will bring him the food and water he needs
For Filippo, Micheles presence represents a re-awakening.
Having been buried, out of sight, for so long, he believes he
is dead, and that Michele represents a guardian angel.
But then, as he is forced to open his eyes, and get used to the
sunlight once more, the friendship is seen as a potential means
For Michele, however, the need to maintain secrecy is of paramount
importance, especially since he begins to suspect his own family
and village of complicity in Filippos predicament.
To reveal too much more would be to deny much of the viewing
pleasure, for Salvatores film works better when you dont
know whats coming.
But I would urge you to see it, for the way in which it expertly
taps into the fears and isolation of childhood, while also exposing
the evil that lies within reach of us all.
Salvatores, who won the best foreign film Oscar, in 1991, for
Mediterraneo, packs his film with contrasts, which serve as neat
metaphors for the cruelty which resonates throughout.
When children are seen playing, or adults squabble, there is
an impending sense of violence (both psychological and physical),
and for every sweeping vista of sun-drenched fields, there is
a rainstorm in waiting, or a dead animal to expose the horrors
lying beneath the surface.
As such, Im Not Scared works as an unsettling affair, without
ever becoming manipulative, or resorting to the need to employ
cheap shock tactics, while also serving as an honest, even emotive,
tale of friendship, honour and decency.
The relationship between the two boys is touchingly portrayed
so as never to seem mawkish, even when Filippo begins to refer
to Michele in angelic terms, and it is easy for viewers to root
for them both.
As such, the deliberate pacing works in its favour, so that by
the time Salvatores reaches his tense climax, viewers should be
perched somewhere near the edge of their seat.
Im Not Scared works on many levels, yet, crucially, realises
most, if not all, of its potential, serving as both a pertinent
insight into a childs view of their parents, as well as
a tale of friendship against the odds. It works as both thriller
and fairytale, deftly mixing its darker elements, with some genuinely
As such, it ought not to be missed by anyone with an appreciation
for terrific cinema.