A review of “I'm Not Scared” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for disturbing images and language. In Italian with English subtitles

Run Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes



This sinister thriller combines the innocence of childhood and the darker deeds of adults with disquieting results.

Italian summer, circa 1978.  Life in the country is simple and fraught with the pleasures of youth.  Lazy games of tag through fields of bleached wheat, bicycling the backroads of the rural Southern countryside, and exploring the abandoned buildings of deserted villages.  All is well in the world of 10-year old Michele (Giuseppe Cristiano) until one of those decrepit structures turns up a startling find: a hermit boy in a covered pit who appears to have been left to die.

Michele doesn’t breathe a word of his discovery, but goes back again and again to uncover the mystery of the lonely child named Filippo (Mattia di Pierro).  Why is he chained underground without food and water?  Why is he without his parents?  Who is taking care of him?

The tension mounts as Michele connects the dots to his very own family.  Dad (Dino Abbrescia) is involved in shady dealings that may also involve the appearance of a corrupt Brazilian stranger.  Michele’s covert knowledge becomes a living breathing entity; somehow he must face his fears and intervene for the sake of a human life no matter what the cost.

Scared is an original creation bound by childish fantasies of monsters and boogie men and quintessential coming-of-age.  Cristiano is a breath of fresh air as a young man on the cusp of adolescent yearnings and fully matured cynicism. A well-crafted cross-breed that utilizes cruel power-plays of both youngsters and adults to support the ominous mood of a first-rate thriller.