Misunderstood: Coming of Age in a World Out to Get You

With its deeply saturated colors and its equally bold plot, Asia Argento's "Misunderstood" is a force of a film.  Argento returns to the directing chair for the first time in years with this slightly over the top Italian drama that recalls a style of decades past.  The story centers around the life of a severely dysfunctional family of artists and their children.  In particular, Argento's story of childhood rebellion mostly focuses in on young Aria, the daughter of a drug addicted pianist and a superstitious, abusive actor.  An ode to the stresses of growing up in a world that seemingly doesn't understand you, "Misunderstood" can be best described as a grim fairy tale where the only supernatural forces and dangers we face are the people that should love us the most. 

 

Though Argento's supposedly semi-autobiographical film thrives off of caricatures and a level of exaggeration within its characters, colour palette, and situations, there's still a bit of sensitivity embedded within the film that keeps it from becoming too over the top or distant.  In fact, there's an undeniably cult vibe exuding from this particularly colorful concoction of a film.  Highlights are equally both Charlotte Gainsbourg (Yvonne Casella) and child actress Giulia Salerno's (Aria) work.  Both display their acting abilities across a spectrum of bipolar emotions, from fearful and loving to manic and everything in between.  Salerno's Aria is our tragic hero, constantly bounced from one parent's house to the other, after her mother and father's excessive hatred of each other separates the family.  Aria being thrown out from their homes is usually a result of issues born from their inattentiveness or preference for Aria's sisters.  Because her half sisters are, in a way, owned by their respective parent, Aria is the sole child that exists as the reminder born from Yvonne and Padre's (Gabriel Garko) tainted relationship.  "A mistake", a symbol of regret and hatred, is the resulting identity that Aria bears, and as she continuously navigates a biased world out to get her, she becomes a far darker, more rebellious version of herself.  In the end, her final tipping point, after years of abuse from her own family, are her friends and peers' mockery of her life.  What we are left with is a swift and brutal end to the story with small traces of false hope shining forth through the credits.  Aria's life is cyclical for the time being, so we end her portrait of it the only way we can. 

 

Excessive and dark in a world of deep, bold colours and 80s fashion flair, "Misunderstood" is a hodge podge of styles that all come together to tell a uniquely blended coming of age story of a lone girl in a world that doesn't quite know what to make of her.  A naive oddity, just like the film, Aria captures the audience and holds our attention with her deep blue eyes and unrelenting hope for someone to love her.  As Asia Argento's third directorial offering and an Italian Un Certain Regard entry at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, "Misunderstood" is certainly a product of its own title.  It will take open-minded audiences to crave, devour and understand this rainbow hued, sometimes magically unrealistic childhood drama.  Available on various VOD platforms, Argento's film of contrasts and edginess creates an imagined world that segue-ways far from reality yet still manages to vividly share with us a world full of very real emotions.

 

 

 

Contributing Writer: Sarah Bex Rice

 

Contributing Writer: Sarah Bex Rice

FAVORITE FILMS: Pandora's Box (1929), Pierrot Le Fou (1965), Amadeus (1984), Trainspotting (1996), Girl on the Bridge (1999), The Fall (2006)

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