You know that story of an English-speaking, “mid-life crisis approaching” woman who wants to inject her stale and placid life with inspiration? You know, she visits Italy, falls in love, and re-awakens her inner-passion and purpose? This film is probably the exact opposite of that.
I do not mean the above in a negative way. The Girl by the Lake is a well-paced, thoughtful, and Twin-Peaks-esque (without the Lynchian whimsy) mystery about a young beautiful girl who is found murdered in a small Italian village, where everyone is a suspect. Secrets are revealed about her relationships, obsessions, and demons, making it a much more complicated case than anticipated, by Commissario Sanzo, who is called in to solve the crime. Is it her family? Was it assisted suicide? Perhaps her lover? Many options seem viable, thus creating a solid web of questions for the audience to mull over while we embark on the journey.
What I found lovely and fresh about this film was the simplicity of it. The plot wasn’t too complicated, but the parallels between the story of this young girl, and the Commissario’s own personal life with his own wife and daughter, contained a depth that held the film together.
Despite not being chock full of action and brutality, there is certainly a prevailing sense of ‘the dark unknown’ infecting such a peaceful unaffected village, where everyone knows one another’s business. The truths that are revealed are done so in a subtle realistic way that makes the viewing experience feel almost relaxed. There are no horrific or violent images, on the contrary, the body of our murdered girl is shown respectfully and artistically, but the underlying suspense is certainly held throughout.
Perhaps what I mentioned earlier about this film being the exact opposite of an Italian romance, was a slight exaggeration, as the tone of the film is very much established by the picturesque setting, which eventually does explore some atypical themes of love. And who doesn’t revel in the fascination of European country folk living their simple, and secretly devious lives, while spoken in one of the most expressive lyrical languages of the world?
As I’ve said before, there is something so refreshing about watching a movie where we don’t know the personal drug and marital history of each actor; where we don’t recognize the locations as something we remember from an episode of Sex and the City; and where, in all likelihood, it will not be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards. The Girl by the Lake is not an aggressively defined depiction of life made for our foreign amusement. Our protagonist, the meandering and intelligent middle-aged inspector, gets under the skin of the village with his somewhat comical sense of calm and inability to be shocked. The characters are bold yet based in a sense of mundane reality. If you are in the mood for a quiet and probing mystery in an exotic yet natural setting, with a few surprises and revelations along the way, this is the film for you.
You can watch The Girl by the Lake on Netflix.com now.
It is in Italian with English subtitles.