Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence Richard Linklater Frontrunner To Direct 'The Rosie Project' Starring Jennifer Lawrence The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances The 10 Best And 5 Worst Tom Cruise Performances Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Union Rep Says Safety Was A Concern On 'The Revenant' Shoot Union Rep Says Safety Was A Concern On 'The Revenant' Shoot All The Songs In 'Paper Towns' Including Bon Iver, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, And More All The Songs In 'Paper Towns' Including Bon Iver, Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Bob Dylan, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More 'Top Of The Lake' Season 2 Starts Shooting This Year, Elisabeth Moss Returns 'Top Of The Lake' Season 2 Starts Shooting This Year, Elisabeth Moss Returns Watch: Trailer For Bret Easton Ellis’ Penned Teen Horror ‘The Curse of Downers Grove’ With Bella Heathcote Watch: Trailer For Bret Easton Ellis’ Penned Teen Horror ‘The Curse of Downers Grove’ With Bella Heathcote Watch: Video Essay Counts Down The 10 Most Beautiful Movies Of All Time Watch: Video Essay Counts Down The 10 Most Beautiful Movies Of All Time Watch: Bond Is Back In New Trailer For 'Spectre' With Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, And More Watch: Bond Is Back In New Trailer For 'Spectre' With Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, And More Alejandro González Iñárritu Still Has To Shoot The Finale Of 'The Revenant' Alejandro González Iñárritu Still Has To Shoot The Finale Of 'The Revenant' The 20 Best Films Of 2015 So Far The 20 Best Films Of 2015 So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season Stephen King Says Wendy In Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "One Of The Most Misogynistic Characters Ever Put On Film" Stephen King Says Wendy In Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "One Of The Most Misogynistic Characters Ever Put On Film" All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More "It Was A Clusterfuck From Day One": 5 Things About Neill Blomkamp's Failed 'Halo' Movie "It Was A Clusterfuck From Day One": 5 Things About Neill Blomkamp's Failed 'Halo' Movie Martin Scorsese Names His 11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time Martin Scorsese Names His 11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time

Cannes Review: Death Lingers & Lifts In Thoughtful 'Miele'

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist May 17, 2013 at 5:39PM

If Michael Haneke's "Amour" presented death as a sobering inevitability, one that will test the bounds of our ability to love, actress Valeria Golino has a slightly more nuanced perspective in her directorial debut "Miele." While the subject of euthanasia is the entryway into the story, Golino wisely strays from turning her film into an Issues Movie, and instead opts to explore the death both as a vessel for closure, and a window into appreciating the life we have.
0
Miele

If Michael Haneke's "Amour" presented death as a sobering inevitability, one that will test the bounds of our ability to love, actress Valeria Golino has a slightly more nuanced perspective in her directorial debut "Miele." While the subject of euthanasia is the entryway into the story, Golino wisely strays from turning her film into an Issues Movie, and instead opts to explore death both as a vessel for closure and a window into appreciating the life we have.

The Noomi Rapace-esque Jasmine Trinca (all cropped hair, switchblade scowl and tomboy figure) leads the film as Irene, aka the titular Miele (meaning honey), her code name when she's on the job as an assisted suicide practitioner. But since it's illegal in Italy, it requires almost Lisbeth Salander-ish levels of covert maneuvers. She travels to Mexico once a month and smuggles back veterinary grade barbiturates which she uses as part of her procedures, and she adheres to a rigorous set of rules to prevent detection, while maintaining a clear but distinct relationship between herself and her patients. 

But her guiding principle of only helping terminal ill patients is broken one day, when she's given the risky assignment to help Carlo (Carlo Cecchi), an elderly architect. While Miele has been present at all of her operations, leading her patients with great dignity and care during their final moments (while also giving them plenty of opportunity to change their mind), Carlo simply wants to buy the drugs and instructions on how to use them, while being left alone to decide his fate. When Irene learns after the transaction has been made that he's actually not ill, but simply "bored" with his life, she, desperately and unsuccessfully, tries to retrieve the drugs, and winds up forming an unlikely bond with the cantankerous Carlo.

Miele

But this isn't a meet-cute leading, where many filmmakers could have gone, to a heartwarming story of how one young girl melts an old man's heart. Instead,  Carlo forces Irene to completely re-examine her own life, one that has left her unable to form any real connections. Her only close relationship is with Stefano (Vinicio Marchioni), a married man, whom she has lied to completely about her life, with their trysts relegated to cars and trailers, out of sight of any watchful eyes. Her only family link is with her father, with whom she shares a cordial but not especially strong tie. In many ways, Carlo becomes her only real friendship, and he's certainly the one with whom she can be wholly honest about what she does.

Golino mostly directs with great care, and doesn't shy away from what Miele does for work, nor does she judge it. Several sequences are dedicated to detailing every step of Miele's procedure, and while Golino leaves aside any moral or ethical discussions, that's because her focus on the emotional and psychic toll it leaves behind. Trinca's performance is strong, as the story progreses, we subtly see how doubt begins to creep into her eyes and face. Nothing is particularly verbalized, but we eventually see Irene unable to be as clinically distant from patients, as she once was. While she never questions helping the terminally ill find a way to leave this life on their own, her concern becomes whether or not she can further bear the burden of handling that responsibility.

And yet, for all the respect with which Golino handles her film and themes, "Miele" could use a few more notes within its narrative melody. Predictable isn't quite the right word, but the picture heads into expected places, with admirable results, but one feels it's missing one more notch or gear to kick the material onto a slightly higher plane. And yet, some slight missteps -- including the distracting use of songs by The Shins, Thom Yorke and David Byrne -- can be overlooked by simply by how well Golino establishes her voice, and a careful control of pitch and tone, particularly on her first feature outing behind the camera.

Death, and the right to choose to die, will always inspire fierce debate and "Miele" doesn't try to solve that argument. Instead, it quietly emphasizes that there can be a grace to passing away, no matter the circumstance. And for those left behind, the acceptance that we sometimes can't control when those close to us go, is lesson that can subtly inspire one to embrace what we have in front of us. [B]

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Cannes Film Festival, Miele, Valeria Golino


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates