When depressed teacher Bruno (Valerio Mastrandrea) is taken back to his native Livorno by younger sister Valeria (Claudia Pandolfi) to assist their ailing and slightly oddball mother Anna (Stefania Sandrelli), childhood memories which have always haunted him become even more vivid as he encounters people and situations from the past. Memories of a violent and mostly absent father, and moving from house to house as his attractive young mother (Michaela Ramazzotti) goes from man to man don’t help with his depressed condition and constant tragi-comic search for “medicinal” remedies.
Tragi-comic is definitely the key here as the Italy of the seventies and eighties and Anna’s struggle for a better life for her children are nostalgically recreated through the eyes of Bruno as he attempts to somehow reconcile with his family. And as his eccentric mother’s condition worsens many secrets are still to be revealed.
Not Paolo Verzì’s best film but certainly one of his most sentimental and moving thanks to excellent performances by all involved both young and not so young. More than 6500 auditions were held to find the young actors in Livorno before selecting Aurora Frasca and Giacomo Bibbiani (wonderful broncio!) as the young children and Giulia Bugalassi e Francesco Rapalino as the adolescent siblings. Atmospheres of lower class life in the Tuscan port town are faithfully recreated throughout the decades, as is the local accent which, (as in 1993’s Ovosodo) add to the authenticity and charm of this well-made if a little slow moving film.
Stefania Sandrelli and Valerio Mastrandrea in La Prima Cosa Bella
links: La prima cosa bella su movieplayer.it