Drama at Close Range By Massimo Causo

in 23rd Torino Film Festival

by Massimo Causo

Cold, but not distant, from the heart of its character, Alex is a drama made at close range. It examines a young woman who longs for a normal life. It also portrays the strong and impulsive manner that contributes to her confused existence.

Alex is a woman whose life in the south of France is marked by her battle to gain the custody of her son Xavier. Everything in her life is channelled towards this goal. But, at the same time, this woman feels the necessity to live in the way she wants, without renouncing her inner sense of freedom, her quiet wildness that pushes her away from social compromises and half-measures: she’s rude and also sweet and this mix is the true mark of her freedom in which the French director José Alcala finds the key of his first full-length film.

Produced by Paulo Branco, Alex portrays both the south of France and the main character with a stylish realism that gains strength from the sense of waste that emanates from the landscape: the lukewarm colours and the wide open ranges are the real perspective from which the director looks at Alex. The result is a film which is, alternately, weakly and strongly tempered. It is precise in its portrait of a female character, and if not truly new, it makes up in the purity of the way it faces the world.

Alex owns an old and ruined house outside the village. She is, with difficulty, restoring the building with her own two hands. This building is more than just a “home” for her and Xavier, it’s quite the tangible “body” of her hopes to be herself “through” – but not “in” – society. And the window she finally opens at the end of the film is the real symbol of her release to life: Alcala’s camera goes through the window, finding a shot just like Alex is finding her first sight of her true identity.

This is an excellent example of cinema that comes up from a deep contact between the director’s style and the essence of the character he’s talking about.