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Happy as Lazzaro

'Happy as Lazarro' (2019)

A haunting Italian fable / folk tale about a naive, simple young man with nothing but goodness running through his veins, and difficult to review without spoilers.

The film is beautifully shot on 16mm film and there are some wonderful images of rural Italy, especially the drone shots that double up as a helicopter. The casting in this film is impeccable, with the family of all ages played very well by actors that almost appear like accidental extras at some points.

The movie centres around a poor family working on a plantation in a time that isn't easy to put a stamp on, until a character with a mobile phone enters the picture. But this is purposefully done by Director Alice Rohrwacher - as time is a theme central to the film. There is a huge shift towards the middle of the film, which is best left unspoilt, and throughout, our naive, angel-like lead Lazarro seems at one with nature. There's a particular theme showing Lazarro as a wolf howling at the moon (and even one of the characters names literally translates as 'of the moon'. The symbolism, religious and otherwise is heavy. Biblical references are also heavily present, and the plot is almost a re-telling of one of the more famous religious stories.

There is a large dose of "magical realism" involved, and the subtext seems to hint that there are some good people are out there, but if something looks too good to be true - it probably is. Part social critique, part mystical tale telling. It also has something to say on capitalism and how economies shape people. It does end on a happy note, but it goes through some journey to get there.