Malèna (2000) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Malèna (2000) Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. With Monica Bellucci, Giuseppe Sulfaro, Luciano Federico and Pietro Notarianni.


After receiving resounding acclaim for his film Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore co-writes and directs another coming-of-age story about a 12-year-old boy called Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro), who becomes hopelessly besotted with a beautiful woman called Malèna (Monica Bellucci) as Italy enters the Second World War in 1940.

Although the war plays a big part in determining the events that surround each character’s life, we see the film from Renato’s young perspective, meaning that his all-consuming fixation on Malèna reduces the war to little more than background noise. Straight away, there’s beauty in the innocent purity of that; one of the most significant events of the past few centuries reduced to nothing because a boy is in love.

The score, written by the legendary Ennio Morricone describes many things, most prominently, beauty and the nobility of bashful, unrequited love. It’s one of those pieces of music that as you’re listening to it, you’re mentally adding it to your Spotify playlist.

The cinematography by Lajos Koltai is flat-out gorgeous. The camera adores Monica Belliccu, telling us stories without words about her struggles and the burden of having to live with her own beauty, the cause of being equally worshipped and hated – the men all want to court her while the jealous women all want to scratch her eyes out.

In his first film, Giuseppe Sulfaro is a joy as Renato. Observing him scurrying around the cobbled streets of Italy on his bicycle, following Malèna wherever she goes is at first adorable and amusing. But as things develop, he becomes more of a Guardian Angel to her, which gives way to some deeply moving moments.

While there is darkness and some frankly upsetting scenes – because the film is told from such a young perspective, there is also an abundance of humour. Renato’s fantasy visions of himself and Malèna as a couple are both funny and charming. With Bellucci set to stun and cinematography and music to melt your soul, there is much to fall in love with about Malèna. 4.5/5


About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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13 Responses to Malèna (2000) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. vinnieh says:

    Excellent review of this moving film. I reviewed it a while back if you’re interested in reading my take on it.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much! I’ll swing by and read your review. I was stunned to find that the film wasn’t universally loved by the critics – it has a half-and-half score on Rotten Tomatoes. Many seem to dismiss it for NOT being Cinema Paradiso – seems wholly unfair.

  2. filmfunkel says:

    Many thanks, although simply saying “Bellucci & Morricone” would alone justify my tracking it down, your review adds a compelling amount of appeal – looking forward to this.

  3. movieblort says:

    When I got one of my first jobs in London, a girl I worked with lent me this film to watch, and I was completely taken back by it. A really stunning film, and just come onto UK Netflix too!

    I flagged this on my alternative valentines day list a while back as well, great to see that people are still appreciating it.

  4. Paul S says:

    ‘Malèna’ and ‘Cinema Paradiso’ posses a magic that I’ve not found in the works of any other writer/director. Another thing about ‘Malèna’ is how achingly beautiful it looks. Okay, it probably helps that they had Sicily as a location but I agree with you that Lajos Koltai deserves credit for the cinematography. I’d happily watch this film without sound just to take in the visuals.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Hi Paul, it’s great to find others who have been touched by the magic of this film. It melted me down, but it also made me laugh and enchanted me. It felt like pure cinema.

  5. rixbitz says:

    Monica Belucci is “set to stun” in all of her films. I envy Vincent Cassell (her husband and lover, for awhile at least) Belissamo!

  6. beetleypete says:

    I love this film, and bought the DVD on release. Great European cinema, and she is just gorgeous too. Thanks very much for following my blog, which is appreciated.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you. I notice that the critics aren’t so kind to it, but it’s a fine achievement. The music is from another realm, one of intense, unrelenting beauty. I must own this on DVD. I saw it on Netflix.

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