La pazza gioia (Like Crazy) (2016) [San Diego Italian Film Festival 2017]

Two women interned in a psychiatric facility in Tuscany escape looking for a little bit of happiness.

Written by Paolo Virzy and Francesca Archibugi based on a story by Virzy who also directs, La pazza gioia is a lovely story of two women with not much in common coming together to try and find some happiness. Given that both are crazy leads to this being complicated by where they live and their issues as well as how they are viewed on the outside of the facility. These characters are charming even as their issues come to light and they are clearly not completely innocent. Their background is explored in a way that gives a view on mental facility patients that is not all negative. It’s a view on them that is gentle, loving, and caring. The characters are shown as humans first, crazy second. Their goals are like anyone else’s; they just go about things a bit differently. The way the film approaches mental health is refreshing as the story is not at the expense of the patients but respectful of them and their beings. They are fully fleshed characters and not caricatures of their issues, something that brings the viewer in and creates a story that is easily enjoyed while showing how hard life can be for people with mental problems and issues.

The cast here is of utmost importance. The two leads are played by utterly talented actresses Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Beatrice Morandini Valdirana and Micaela Ramazzotti as Donatella Morelli. Both of their performances are stunning in how truthful and real they are. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi shows the strength it takes to face her character’s illness and how even in despair, there can be light. Her character becomes a sort of mother to Micaela Ramazzotti’s Donatella Morelli. She create a layered character that is fascinating to watch as the viewer never knows what will come out of her mouth or how she will react to anything. Micaela Ramazzotti plays a mother completely broken, a mother who has committed the unthinkable yet only wants one thing in life, something that should be simple, but that is denied to her. Her vulnerability on display here is something that hits hard along with her wanting to give up but not quite. These two ladies are almost opposites in how they play their characters yet they work together so perfectly that the film feels almost too short, leaving the viewer wanting to see more of this pairing.

The lead performances are not the only stunning element of the film. The way it is shot, the cinematography by Vladan Radovic is postcard beautiful. The way he frames even the psychological care facility which is a beautiful villa gives the film a fantastic quality. The images used in the film are not only beautiful, they give the patients and the lead a place to evolve in that is not the usual cold hospitals and mental facilities shown on film. This film looks exceptional, giving it a feeling a happiness when the characters find a bit of freedom for themselves. The exteriors make one want to travel to Tuscany and look for their own happiness while running a bit wild. These images are paired with a score by Carlo Virzì that underscores the emotions without pushing them down the throat of viewers. It adds just the right amount of background for the action and for the actresses to evolve in.

La pazza gioia is one of those films that makes the viewer happy. It’s a film full of real people just wanting to be happy. From the leads’ search for happiness to the two ladies running naked in the background of one scene, the film takes what makes one happy and makes it a goal for them to have. It’s a film full of emotions and beautiful, strong performance. The two leads are so talented and used to the best of their capacities giving the film a quality that is only matched by its beautiful images and great score. This one is a film that should be sought out and seen. It will make even grumps happy.