While the basic elements might make it seem like “The Perfect Storm” without weather, “Sailing Home” is in fact closer in spirit to Luchino Visconti’s “La Terra Trema.” Following the neorealist example of that 1948 classic, debuting writer-director Vincenzo Marra uses real fishermen from the island of Procida to weave the somber drama of a Neapolitan fishing boat crew. Navigating uncommon narrative waters for contempo Italian cinema, with a soulfulness and unpretentious honesty that command respect, this modest micro-budget production — picked up for domestic theatrical release by Nanni Moretti’s Sacher outfit — should find a welcome in select festival ports.
After narrowly escaping authorities while fishing illegally in the North African waters south of Sicily, where fish are more plentiful, the four-man crew of a privately owned boat returns to Naples. But fearing competition, the corrupt local fishermen revoke the new crew’s license to fish in the area, forcing them to make the dangerous trip south again.
Spinning the dark mood forward is a young crew member who signs on for another hitch following the tragic death of his wife in an accident. The young fisherman returns to work dazed and suicidal, surrendering with mute passivity to a radically altered destiny.
Spoken mainly in Neapolitan dialect (with Italian subtitles for national release) from what appears to have been a semi-improvised script by Marra, the film is the latest in a growing number of Southern Italian regional indie productions firmly rooted in local culture and language.
Shot in a loose documentary style with hand-held cameras and performed by the non-pro cast with quiet, unaffected solemnity, the melancholy, contemplative drama builds steadily and satisfyingly to its poignant conclusion. Marra conveys a strong sense of the tension and isolation of the sea and the marginalized existence of the fishermen struggling to make a living from it, whose work is their lives.
Andrea Guerra’s gentle, melodic Neapolitan score is effective. The film won the jury prize for best entry in the Venice fest’s Intl. Critics Week.