Drama ‘Happy as Lazzaro’, or to give its Italian title, ‘Lazzaro Felice’, is the latest film from director Alice Rohrwacher. She has already been rewarded with the Best Screenplay prize when the film debuted at Cannes Film Festival and the film has won and been nominated for a number of other accolades in awards season too. Finally receiving its UK release, ‘Happy as Lazzaro’ will be attempting to gain the same critical acclaim here that it has garnered elsewhere.
The film follows Lazzaro, a young peasant farmer, and his family. They work in a small, isolated village called Inviolata on a tobacco farm run by an exploitative baroness, Alfonsina de Luna, also known as the “Queen of Cigarettes”. The old-fashioned and subdued setting contributes to a slow beginning for the film, seeming in no rush to move the plot along at any great pace. However, once ‘Happy as Lazzaro’ embarks on its main storyline the film becomes an odd yet compelling drama. The film moves along nicely thanks to Adriano Tardiolo’s charming leading performance but then with some surprising plot developments the film takes a unique new direction. There’s no denying it’s all a little puzzling and confusing, thankfully never so much to become alienating but the more bizarre nature to some of this screenplay won’t be for everyone.
The performances from all the cast are good, they have an authentic feeling to them and everyone is easily believable in their roles. It’s Tardiolo who stands out most, driving the majority of the story forward. He does this well but the peculiarities of the narrative somewhat always draw the attention back to it. The film is long, but despite the less than orthodox content of the screenplay the pace is actually no issue at all and with maybe just the exception of the opening the film doesn’t drag in the slightest. This is helped by the really amusing touches of humour littered throughout the screenplay. The film certainly isn’t an all out comedy but there’s enjoyable laughs to had here and much like the performances of the cast they feel like natural additions to the production and contribute to the tone in a positive way.
‘Happy as Lazzaro’ is a well executed film boasting a truly curious narrative. Tardiolo will draw audiences in with his charismatic portrayal of the title character but it’s Rohrwacher’s screenplay that will have viewers captivated during the film and after the credits have rolled too. It’s most certainly a complex film but for some it will be lacking in actual physical narrative with not a enough happening for them to fully engage with. For this reason it’s got the potential to be fairly polarising, most likely leaving many viewers sharing a similar emotion of happiness to the title character but for others it could be underwhelming.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 6/10
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Thanks to Queens Film Theatre for screening access