Notwithstanding moments of visual beauty, Pippo Mezzapesa's debut, "Annalisa," only sporadically makes its narrative come alive.

Notwithstanding moments of visual beauty, Pippo Mezzapesa’s debut, “Annalisa,” only sporadically makes its narrative come alive. Were the helmer just aiming to capture the spirit of adolescence via this 1990s tale set in southern Italy, then the lack of connective tissue could be forgiven, but he also wants to tell a story about a couple of mismatched friends and the mysterious woman they befriend, and here the pic fails to hold interest. Respectable though rarely inspired, “Annalisa” is unlikely to make a dent at home or play much further afield.

New kid Veleno (Nicolas Orzella) is called “faggot” by his peers (though he’s not coded as gay). Cool classmate Zaza (Luca Schipani) befriends him, and they become fascinated by Annalisa (Aylin Prandi) after she attempts a very public suicide. Zaza takes advantage of Annalisa’s self-destructive promiscuity, yet refuses to accept it when she services others. Meanwhile, he’s caught between soccer dreams and drug peddlers. Annalisa’s character remains frustratingly underdeveloped, and the drug subplot feels forced, its climactic moment practically thrown away. Lenser Michele D’Attanasio nicely captures the strong summer light, though faces are too often in shadow.

Annalisa

Italy

Production

A Fandango release of a Fandango production, in collaboration with Rai Cinema. (International sales: Fandango Portobello, London.) Produced by Domenico Procacci. Directed by Pippo Mezzapesa. Screenplay, Antonio Leotti, Antonella Gaeta, Mezzapesa, based on the novel "Il paese delle spose infelici" by Mario Desiati.

Crew

Camera (color), Michele D'Attanasio; editor, Giogio Franchini; music, Pasquale Catalano; production designer, Sabrina Balestra; costume designers, Francesca Vecchi, Roberta Vecchi. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (competing), Oct. 30, 2011. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Nicolas Orzella, Luca Schipani, Aylin Prandi, Cosimo Villani, Vincenzo Leggieri, Gennaro Albano, Antonio Gerardi, Roberto Corradino, Rolando Ravello, Valentina Carnelutti, Nicola Rignanese, Teresa Saponangelo.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more