Sundance 2015: ‘Cloro’ has a strong central performance in an otherwise dull film

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Cloro
Written by Elisa Amoruso and Lamberto Sanfelice
Directed by Lamberto Sanfelice
Italy, 2015

Cloro (that translates to Chlorine in English) is a film that has admirable qualities but is ultimately a dull affair. There are moments that director Lamberto Sanfelice makes effective, but for the most part he spends the duration of the feature seemingly uninterested in his own material. Jenny (Sara Serraiocco) is a 17-year old synchronized swimmer who is forced to uproot her life and move to the mountains to take care of her little brother and father, who is recovering from a nervous breakdown of some sort. Here she waits until she can return to her synchronized swimming team.

Sara Serraiocco gives a great performance in the lead of Jenny, but she isn’t enough to redeem the film from being relatively forgettable. Her eyes are burrowed into her face, and she makes the audience search for her internal emotions that she subtly manifests: faced with conflict, you can see her thoughts and emotions brewing below the surface. She is a very engaging presence in an otherwise un-invested film.

There are many developments in the film that go unexplained, but not even in a way that compliments the ultimate effect of the film. At one point Jenny begins an affair with Ivan (Ivan Franek), a man in his mid-thirties who operates the ski lift at the resort she works at. The very notion of the two being together certainly is interesting, but is never explored. One night he’s watching her in the pool and as she undresses –  because he’s also a pervert apparently. Just two scenes later they are sleeping with each other. It’s a bit unsettling not because of the nature of their relationship and Ivan’s creep factor, but because the film romanticizes all of it. Sanfelice never gives any indication to understanding why these two have come together, nor really takes a look at the character of Ivan besides the fact that he’s a romanticized pervert. Characters talk about how he’s trouble and has a dark past, but none of that is really explored, just referenced.

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One can surmise that Sanfelice forced this in to make the film more “adult” and “provocative”, but he doesn’t know how to translate those descriptors into the film. Everything that Sanfelice seems to inserts into the film with the intention of “edging” it up just comes across as contrived and forced rather than integrated in any complimentary fashion. The film never really heads in a direction that engages or surprises. You can tell the romance with Jenny and Ivan is coming because a character tells her not to go near him. Anybody that has seen any movie with a romance in it can tell you where that particular thread is headed. When the film has reached it’s end, you don’t feel like you’ve gone anywhere because Sanfelice told you where he was going far in advance.

There are moments where director Lamberto Sanfelice’s artistry does compliment the film and the characters. Consider how he shoots various moments of Jenny practicing her synchronized swimming, there’s a real sense of interest in his camera. One shot takes place from under water making her body looks duplicated as if in a mirror reflection, and in that moment Sanfelice briefly understands his character, capturing her in a fractured state torn between her desires and her responsibilities.

Despite the strong performance from Serraiocco, the film ultimately followed the wrong character. Consider her little brother, Fabrizio (Anatol Sassi), a character that virtually nobody in his life wants to take care of. His father can’t take care of him, and his sister and uncle are playing hot potato with his custody. The film suggests that Jenny is the sole victim here, but there’s another one in him, he’s just sadly not on screen a lot. Whenever the film veered away from his predicament, it felt like a lost opportunity for something more engaging. When the credits rolled, you realize he’s the only character that might have had an arc heading somewhere.

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