Set on the dusty, sun-bleached Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, just off the coast of Sicily, Respiro is the story of Grazia (Valeria Golino), a mother and wife whose increasingly bizarre behaviour upsets the co-inhabitants of her sleepy fishing hamlet. In fact, Grazia's simmering sexuality makes the rest of the villagers nervous, the final straw being when she releases hundreds of dogs from the local pound. Something needs to be done, and the village banishes her to an `institute' in Milan.
Winner of two awards at Cannes 2002, writer/director Emanuele Crialese's saga of small-town ignorance and sexual repression is both sumptuous to look at and nourishing to the brain. As the local fishing industry crumbles and the island's children roam in wild packs through abandoned, half-built hotels and tourist complexes, it's clear that Grazia's being used as a scapegoat for wider issues. Yet Respiro also serves as a celebration of family, her eldest son standing by his mother.
It's this mix of sweet and sour that makes Crialese's comedy-drama so effective.