Dir: Lamberto Sanfelice. Italy. 2015. 94mins

Chlorine 3

A thoughtfully made is perhaps a little too gently paced Lamberto Sanfelice’s drama feature debut Chlorine (Cloro) works well as an astute character drama as it dwells on a teenager who has to take on all sorts of responsibilities after a parent’s nervous breakdown. It is familiar dramatic territory, but it is a maturely made film that bodes well for the filmmaker.

The design, tone and minimal dialogue all work together to deliver a chilled and restrained atmosphere, with the drama modest and at times cryptic.

The film, which premiered at Sundance and also screens in Generation at the Berlin Film Festival, is made with an easy understanding of a young person having to take on adult duties and works well with his young star Sara Serraiocco, who plays 17 year-old Jenny, a dedicated swimmer who is part of a junior national synchronised swimming team but who has to change her tack when drama strikes her family.

Her father Alfio (Andrea Vergoni) has a breakdown following his wife’s death, so her father, Jenny and her eight-year old brother Fabrizio (Anatol Sassi) have to leave their home in coastal Ostia and head to Alfio’s home town in the mountains to the north, staying in a holiday cabin owned by his brother Tondino.

So, from a determined and focussed would-be athlete, this teenager finds herself having to look after her emotionally crippled father and a young brother who is suffering from all of the change, taking on a job as a maid at the Splendor Hotel, an off-season ski resort to try and make ends meet.

She tries and find an order to her new life, but Fabrizio has issues starting at a new school and eventually her father is taken off to a monastery to be looked after, but she finds secret solace of a sort when she starts to sneak into the hotel’s indoor pool late at night to keep up with her training. For some reason – that isn’t overly clear in the film – the serious-minded Jenny starts a relationship of sorts with Ivan (Ivan Franek), the older émigré warden of the hotel. The film has a cycle of sorts that eventually sees Jenny return to see her old swimming team and ends in an entirely expected fashion.

The design, tone and minimal dialogue all work together to deliver a chilled and restrained atmosphere, with the drama modest and at times cryptic. Jenny’s journey – both emotional and physical – feels a familiar one, but this austere story is told with a certain clinical style. Most effective are the shots of her synchronised swimming practice where the pool footage is nicely put together and acts as a counterbalance to the chilly and at times gloomy footage of the wintery ski resort.

Production companies: ANG Films, Asmara Films

International sales: Rai, www.raitrade.rai.it

Producers: Damiano Ticconi, Ginevra Elkann.

Screenplay: Lamberto Sanfelice, Elisa Amoruso, from a story by Sanfelice

Cinematography: Michele Paradisi

Editor: Andrea Maguolo

Production designer: Daniele Frabetti

Main cast: Sara Serraiocco, Ivan Franek, Giorgio Colangeli, Anatol Sassi, Piera Degli Esposti, Andrea Vergoni, Chiara Romano, Pina Bellano, Mario Massari