Sole has a cold, detached feel which fits its somber narrative, though its overall joyless nature makes it a difficult film to engage and connect with.
It is set in Nettuno, a coastal town near Roma, where a young man Favio (Bruno Bruzzi) and woman Lena (Sandra Drzymalska) are brought together in a surrogate mother scheme. She is already pregnant, and he is posing to be the father, so his uncle and aunt can adopt the child as foster parents. In Italy, it is illegal to have children via surrogate, leaving sterile adults little option for adopting children.
The cultural context, and narrative framework explaining how these seemingly joyless, unloving couple became parents, were not made clear, though the film’s lack of intimacy, warmth, and feeling certainly set a tone that something is amiss. Information and plot details are given very slowly and deliberately; little exposition at all is set up, and we learn more about the scenario and characters’ relations to one another as the story develops.
While it is challenging from a narrative perspective, the withholding of information feels somewhat fitting for the coldness of the premise: two young people, not in love, preparing for the birth of a child they are literally selling. It is a joyless story, of desperate people, who hardly even connect to one another, least of all any interpersonal chemistry hitting the screen.
Sole is a film I admire more than I like, though I was enlightened to a cultural distinction of Italy that I wasn’t aware of. I’d be curious if director Carlo Sironi’s intent is to make a political movie to enact change or simply a drama exploring the legal confines of Italian society, but it was nonetheless an eye opening look into a situation rarely explored in film.
Screened at the 31st Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival in 2020.