Deception is a form of grief in Piero Messina’s L’Attesa (The Wait). Juliette Binoche stars a Frenchwoman in Sicily, grieving the recent passing of her son. Also French, the dead son’s girlfriend (Lou de Laâge), unaware of his death, flies into Sicily for a visit. Instead of telling her the truth (that her boyfriend is dead), the mother pretends she’s grieving her brother, not her son. Her son, she says, will be back for Easter. One may take issue with the Jesus metaphor, or with the setup itself: What motivation does the mom have to string along the girlfriend this way? But these doubts are easy to forgive, for it’s not very hard to imagine that grief comes in many forms, including denial. And, like most movies, L’Attesa has a movie logic that works while the movie, and Binoche and de Laâge, keep us under their spell. Devoted to subtlety and style, L’Attesa is languorously beautiful, relying on long silences, intense close-ups, stunning vistas, sensuous pans, and fastidiously symmetric framing to create an immersive atmosphere. Its spare with score, making good use of The xx’s “Missing” and Leonard Cohen’s “Waiting for the Miracle.” But, despite all this style, is the movie, at times, heavy, overwrought, boring? Maybe, but waiting often is.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White