Locarno review: Pillow Face (2022)

Pardi di Domani
International Competition

Courtesy of Locarno Film Festival

There is no specific age which shelters you from mistreatement, but kids can be particualarly brutal to each other, particularly in early puberty, since they are protected by the unwritten code of silence, and the self-pompeous convinction of being untouchable. There are only a couple of ways out of it if you are bullied, the most secure of them – to impress the bullies.

Samuel (Samuele Marvulli) whose nickname serves as the movie’s title, does that for a brief period of time. Fed up with the way he’s been treated by two slightly older boys with whom he is spending the spare time, he suddenly gets a chance to improve his status. This stroke of luck will almost put him in a position of an equal…

Almost one year after his win in the Venice Film Week with the short Celentano’s Seasickness, Saverio Cappiello competes in Pardi di Domani international competition with his short drama Pillow Face, shot in the Bari suburbs in the local dialect, and with children from the area carefully casted for the roles. The boys bring the raw, authentic energy to the screen, probably just being themselves, to the effect of effortless, smooth acting. The camera is as restless as the kids, and often very close to their faces to capture their reactions on the things they see. Sometimes genuinly caught by surprise, the all-amateur cast show completely unfeigned emotions. Such is the case in one scene with twerking teenage girls.

All the pranks and mischief are happening along the empty canal in the Canalone, where seemingly only kids spend their time. It is not a particulary pretty place to be hanging around but it is possibly as good as it gets in the suburb. The humble landscape with much more concrete than anything else to offer, humms with the sound of passing trains, but echoes with emptiness carried by the wind. Canalone, or at least what is visible of it, looks completely deserted. The sandy beach is empty of people, and even the big construction machines stand abandoned. This could be just any other European suburb populated by the working class families.

The story gradually takes another course, moving from one level of bullying to the other, with the former victim joining forces with his recent tormentors to take it on someone else. But all things new unrelated to gaming and social networks are interesting for a short time. Pillow Face is one of the most striking movies about the merciless phase between childhood and the total explosion of hormones.

Pillow Face is eligible as Locarno Short Film Candidate for the European Film Awards

Original Title: Faccia di cuscino
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Year: 2022
Runtime: 15′
Directed by: Saverio Cappiello
Written by: Saverio Cappiello, Pier Paolo Piciarelli, Anita Otto
Cinematographer: Niccolo Natali
Editor: Marco Gernone
Production: Intervallo Film, BIG Factory
Producer: Nicolò Accettura
Sound: Tommaso Danisi
Sound Assistant: Damiano Barbieri
Sound Design: Renato Minichelli
Set Design: Tommy Rossano
Costumes/ Makeup: Noemy Carrieri
Cast: Samuele Marvulli, Denny Petrosillo, Stefano Losacco, Francesca Grimaldi, Roberta Cirilloolour Correction: Donato Casale
International Sales: Sayonara Film