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Throughout most of the Italian film, “Amanda,” the title character wears an outfit perhaps best described as Moody Teen: "Who me? I just threw on this old thing, but did you notice how punk it is?" There’s a shapeless jacket, clunky boots, and a vest that looks like it was crocheted by someone’s grandmother. And throughout most of the movie, she sports a sullen expression giving notes of truculence, superiority, and occasionally helplessness, as in, “I may be far above these lesser people I am doomed to be with, but I still wish one of them liked me.” We eventually see Amanda lounging by the pool in a bathing suit, a sharp contrast that calls back to the film’s flashback opening.

First-time feature writer/director Carolina Cavalli has a strong eye for composition and an appealing confidence in her vision. She said she picked Benedetta Porcaroli to play Amanda because of her melancholic attitude and strength of spirit. Both are evident in the character, whose outsider status may be suggested by her name, very popular in the US but almost unheard of in Italy. In a very brief flashback that opens the film, we see that even as a child, her behavior could be shocking, though we do not find out until much later exactly what she did that caused the maid to shriek her name and drop the tray she was carrying. When we see her again, she is in her twenties and has returned home to her wealthy family’s comfortable home after studying in Paris. She is unwilling to join her sister in the family business, a chain of pharmacies. But she is not willing to do anything else, either. She is certain that she knows what she does not like and even more certain that she is above the people and activities around her. She shows some interest in her sister’s young daughter and a neighbor’s horse, but the closest thing she has to a companion is Judy, that same maid who dropped the tray, a middle-aged woman she begs to go to a rave with her. Amanda’s mother, Sofia (Monica Nappo), will no longer allow Judy to go out with Amanda and offers an alternative.  

Sofia and her friend have no idea what to do with their failure-to-launch daughters and hope that getting them together will somehow help them move forward. When they were children, Amanda was friends with Rebecca, the other character with an Anglo-American name. The slight problem now: Rebecca (Galatéa Bellugi) refuses to leave her room.

Like a less-cluttered Wes Anderson film, “Amanda” has quirky, precocious young characters who deliver aphoristic pronouncements in monotone, deadpan voices amid beautifully composed settings. Although she is in her mid-twenties, Amanda seems like a teenager, reflexively defensive. She feels more in control when expressing dark sentiments, insulting people, or transgressing the boundaries of acceptable behavior, as in clipping her toenails into her mother’s bathwater. Amanda desperately wants a friend and boyfriend but has no idea how to show interest in anyone other than insulting them. She cares about and even identifies with the neighbor’s neglected horse, but all she says to him is, “You’re too skinny.  You look like a table.” She gazes with longing at an attractive young man but has no idea how to let him know she is interested. And then she is hurt and angry when he dates someone else.  But she is self-aware enough to understand that she “never does anything because she is too busy doing nothing.”

Amanda’s bluntness is an asset with Rebecca. Like Mary with her spoiled cousin Colin in The Secret Garden, Amanda’s abrasive directness brings out an honesty between herself and Rebecca, leading to some progress for both. Porcaroli’s face, as Amanda’s perpetual frown begins to relax, is a small gem. In the American version of this movie, it might result in more palpable progress, probably with some hugging. But this is not that movie. Cavalli respects the world's complications, and “Amanda” the film is as uncompromising as Amanda the character.

Now playing in theaters. 

Nell Minow

Nell Minow is the Contributing Editor at

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Film Credits

Amanda movie poster

Amanda (2023)

Rated NR

94 minutes

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