The Macaluso Sisters (Le Sorelle Macaluso)
Glass Half Full Media
Reviewed by Tami Smith, Film Reviewer for Shockya
Grade: B+
Director: Emma Dante
Screenwriters: Emma Dante, Elena Stancanelli, Giorgio Vasta, adapted from a play: Le Sorelle Macaluso
Cast: Alissa Maria Orlando, Laura Giordani, Rosalba Bologna, Susanna Piraino, Serena Barone, Maria Rosaria Alti, Anita Pomario, Donatella Finocchiaro, Ilena Rigano, Eleonora De Luca, Simona Malato, Viola Pusateri
Release Date: August 6th, 2021

While seeking refuge from North America’s early winter we landed in Punta Raisi Airport, also known as Palermo’s International airport in Sicily. It was a bright December morning, during the 1990’s and the sun was shining at a warm sixty-five degrees over blue skies. Since our wish came true I stood in the middle of the empty parking lot, stretched my arms upward and squealed with delight. Our drive in a Fiat car rental went without a hitch, landing us at the centrally located Grand Hotel on Via Roma, a mere three-minute walk from Teatro Massimo. The days in Palermo were warm and the nights provided a spring-like breeze, making for an ideal post-dinner walk near the opera house and the public square, filled with locals dinning and enjoying a pre-Christmas week.

Since I never got a view of Palermo’s residential area I was taken back by the poverty portrayed in The Macaluso Sisters. This film was photographed, with great skill by Gherardo Gossi, focusing on a mold-filled apartment house in decaying downscale urban Palermo. The sisters in the title are five siblings named: Maria (the oldest and rational one), Pinuccia (the second born), Lia (the complicated one), Katia (the chubby one) and Antonella (the youngest one), ranging in age from seven to twenty years, residing on the upper floor and making a living by providing dove rental services for weddings and funerals. Viewers are never shown where their parents are, but one look at a family portrait assures us that they existed in better times.

The Macaluso Sisters was written by Elena Stancanelli, Giorgio Vasta and director Emma Dante, who adapted the plot from her play Le Sorelle Macaluso. The film’s screenplay was written in three acts dealing with the sisters’ youth, middle and old age. Act One deals with their childhood years and takes place on a single summer day, while the sisters go to a public beach. An outing that starts with fun, dance and euphoria culminates with Antonella’s accidental death. The second act deals with their middle-age years. It takes place indoors where four sisters gather for a festive dinner, which will reveal a terminal illness for one of them. Act Three deals with the three remaining old sisters, ending with the death of one, and the sale of the apartment.

While the story of The Macaluso Sisters seems ordinary this eighty-nine-minute’s saga is directed and edited with a great skill by Emma Dante and Benni Atria respectively. Director Dante shows the sisters’ joie de vivre during the beach outing in the first act, their bitterness and resentments at middle age while gathering for a family dinner, and their final acceptance at old age. Editor Benni Atria moves viewers seamlessly through three timelines while showing a realistic and fluid passage in the sisters’ lives.

The five roles are played by twelve actresses: Maria is played by Eleonora De Luca and Simona Malato; Lia by Susanna Piraino, Serena Barone and Maria Rosaria Alti; Pinuccia by Anita Pomario, Donatella Finocchiaro and Ileana Rigano; Katia by Alissa Maria Orlando, Laura Giordani and Rosalba Bologna; and Antonella is played by Viola Pusateri, who appears in all the acts and never seems to age a day over seven years.

The Macaluso Sisters is presented in Italian with English subtitles. It premiered at the 2019 Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Pasinetti Award.

89 minutes   Rated: NR © Tami Smith, Film Reviewer

Story: A-
Acting: B+
Technical: B
Overall: B+

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