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Movie Review by Neil Ryan

Starring: Donatella Finocchiaro, Andrea Di Stefano, Mario Pupella, Erasmo Lobello
Director: Roberta Torre

ANGELA arrives on the strength of much critical acclaim at last year’s Cannes festival. It is an Italian film based on the real-life story of the titular heroine, played by screen newcomer Donatella Finocchiaro, an attractive, if sullen, manageress of a shoe shop in Palermo, Sicily, who is married to Saro (Mario Pupello), a successful businessman. So far so normal, except Saro’s internationally-renowned employers recognised for their global commercial interests are the Mafia, and Angela’s shop is a front for a drug-running enterprise. Angela is a willing accomplice in her husband’s covert activities: stashing the merchandise, making drop-offs and pick-ups, and unquestioningly following ‘company’ orders. However, matters become complicated when Masino (Andrea di Stefano), a young outsider with a reputation for being impulsive, is drafted in to help with operations, and a mutual attraction between Angela and Masino gradually develops into a full-blown affair. All the while the police are keenly monitoring the comings and goings at the shoe shop: following the ‘employees’, photographing their movements, and recording their phone calls. And amongst the recorded conversations is clear evidence of Angela’s infidelity….

ANGELA has a stark, almost documentary feel to it: grainy hand-held camerawork, often tracking characters using point-of-view shots, with much of the action occurring in shadowy interiors with little or no use of artificial lighting. There is none of the glossy sheen and stylised violence that is beloved of British and American cinematic accounts of organised crime. The naturalistic approach of ANGELA suits the depiction of the dogged determination of the police surveillance and the matter-of-fact presentation of a drugs-running enterprise, but it also robs the viewer of some of the impact of Angela’s emotional conflict when she is split by her love for two different men in the film’s final fifteen minutes. A flaw which is only partially redressed by a postscript updating the fate of the three protagonists.

4 out of 6 stars