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The Crack Magazine


The Macaluso Sisters

Director: Emma Dante 

Stars: Alissa Maria Orlando, Susanna Piraino, Anita Pomario

Set over three acts, playwright Dante’s affecting second picture, adapted from her stage play, chronicles the fallout of a family tragedy reaching over decades.

The first act takes place in the mid-80s where we are introduced to five sisters, Maria, Pinuccia, Lia, Katia and Antonella who live in a top floor apartment in Palermo. They are orphaned apparently, but the whereabouts/fate of their parents is never alluded to or explained. They make ends meet by keeping doves which they rent out for ceremonies.

While they are swimming at the beach, teen Maria, who aspires to be a dancer, slips away where she meets a girl of the same age whom she kisses. The eldest Pinuccia swims away by herself, and during their absence the youngest Antonella drowns in an accident. 

The story jumps forward to some year later where the once aspiring dancer Maria, now a vet’s assistant, goes to visit Pinuccia who is overheard making love nosily in the apartment. Tensions and recriminations spill over between the five sisters. 

In the final act Lia, who has had history of mental health issues, is living alone in their apartment which surrounded by toys and clutter, poignant but macabre mementoes of their childhood. 

Dante exhibits an admirable economy in chronicling the three time periods over a brisk ninety-minute running time, while convincingly capturing the rhythms and flow of the relations between the sisters, from coltish playful girl to troubled adults. There is a disarming directness and simplicity at work here too, so that even the potentially clichéd motif of doves taking flight feels true and moving. The melancholy feel is underscored by Erik Satie’s ‘Gymnopédie No.1’ which is heard throughout, while tentative hope and transcendence is suggested in the Italian song ‘Meravigliosa Creatura’ (Wonderful Creatures) that plays over the credits.

The Macaluso Sister is available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema now. 

David Willoughby 

Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm