Sometimes it’s fun to watch a movie fall apart, but those movies usually start out with no promise of getting better. “I’m Not Scared” is the opposite. The first act is foreboding and feels like Hitchcock at his best, but the final two thirds feel like a “Downhill” slide.
Set in the impoverished Italian countryside, “I’m Not Scared” is a coming-of-age tale about a young boy named Michele (Giuseppe Cristiano, “As God Commands”) who finds the malnourished Filippe (Mattia Di Pierro) chained down in a hole. When Michele’s father, Pino (Dino Abbrescia, “The Worst Christmas of My Life”), returns home after a long absence, Michele’s family begins to fall apart.
The first act showed so much promise that it was hard to see it going south. “I’m Not Scared” opens with beautiful, expansive tracking shots of the golden countryside. Almost immediately, this beauty is shrouded by Michele’s shocking discovery of the kidnapped and skeleton-thin Filippe. Every day, Michele visits Filippe and their mostly innocent interactions become the heart of the film. It’s well-acted, decently written and beautifully shot.
But somewhere along the line it’s like the writers and editors got lazy. The movie starts to progress more like a student film. Scenes are cut off too quickly, not playing out to their full effect. Transitions are poorly placed and Michele makes increasingly stupid decisions, even for a kid. Somewhere around the 45-minute mark, the film becomes overrun with forced symbolism and cursory scenes. The developments are contrived and predictable. Numerous plot lines remain undeveloped.
What happened to Michele’s writing hobby? Michele’s friends, especially the sociopathic Skull? A lot of story lines are hinted at and never fully developed. The movie loses focus. “Style over substance” is the phrase that kept coming to mind. The sweeping aerial shots remain in full force and, by the time the credits roll, become the film’s only redeeming quality.
For a movie short on scares and long on disappointment, “I’m Not Scared” is aptly named. It can be fun to watch a bad movie fall apart, but it’s sad to see a promising one do the same. Grandiose shots of the rolling hills of Italy keep the film afloat at first, but after the waters ebb only a lonely desert floor remains.
Title: “I’m Not Scared”
Director: Gabriele Salvatores
Release date: March 14, 2003
Genre: Crime Drama