' ' Cinema Romantico: CIFF Review: Miele

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CIFF Review: Miele

I apologize straight away for opening a review this way but as the oft-repeated Robert Warshaw phrase goes: “A man goes to the movies. The critic must be honest enough to admit he is that man.” And if this is true, and I contend whole-heartedly that it is, then it also must be said that a man goes to the movies on a certain date and time. The critic must be honest enough to admit he is that man on that certain date and time. This is to say, I saw “Miele” the very same day two girls were arrested in connection with the bullying of Rebecca Sedwick that led her to commit suicide. The terms suicide and euthanasia both come attached with a great deal of weight in society, but is there a difference between the two? And should they carry such negative connotations? This is the question “Miele”, the directorial debut of Valeria Golino (of whom you may have heard), poses.

Our protagonist is Irene (Jasmine Trinca), bringing to mind a less possessed Milla Jovovich, whose working name is Miele (i.e. Honey) and who earns scratch as a for-hire Angel of Death, rambling about Italy to assist people in need of suicide and/or euthanasia by washing down barbiturates used to put dogs to sleep that she scores from Mexico with vodka. She also sets the mood with by-appointment musical selections. It’s an all-encompassing service. We never learn how she fell into this job, nor should we. For-hire Angels of Death, I imagine, just sort of emerge from the mists rather than answer ads in the classifieds.

The film displays admirable patience in allowing the audience to figure out on its own who she is and what she does (or should the latter come first?). It is strongly suggested, but not spelled out. Eventually we learn she maintains her own standard of ethics – namely, she only aids the already terminally ill. Thus, as she must, she is assigned to an older man, Grimaldi (Carlo Cecchi), who seeks to be euthanized not on account of his health, which is fine, but simply because he has grown tired of life.

Irene becomes indignant, actively trying to stop him, but gradually gives ground. A teensy subplot involves Irene’s father, with whom she socializes but doesn’t really interact. This clearly colors Grimaldi as a kind of father figure, and honestly “Miele” might have been better sans that bit of business. It works better as a re-prioritizing of Irene’s ideals. She draws closer to Grimaldi and finds her worldview, for better and for worse, altered. Rather than plowing toward some dramatic faceoff, it quiets down into a graceful understanding, an admission of the world’s reality. No reason is ever established for Grimaldi’s desire to check out. He even mocks that notion, saying something to the effect of “Now’s the time when I tell a sad story?” Whatever brought him here is deep-seeded, a long time coming.

Ultimately the film concludes that no one really wants to die. We all want to live, but a point may arrive where life seems unlivable. Is it truly unlivable? Regardless of what some may argue, I contend only the individual knows. That is not to suggest the absence of a breakdown – whether emotional, whether societal – but that it is entirely possible for an otherwise healthy human being to reach such a place of despair.

Rebecca Sedwick reaching that point wrecks my heart, and I desperately wish she could have seen that there was a way out. But I also believe she must have reached a point where she genuinely felt she could not go on, and I hope beyond hope that her soul found peace. And paradoxically, I wish everyone in life could be as kind and generous as Irene is helping distribute death to those who seek it.

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