“I’m Not Scared” – Chris Luedtke

Perhaps the most frightening films aren’t those that hunt us but those that haunt us. They make us question how we’d handle a certain situation, if we’d go with the flow or crack under pressure. While these ideas will be addressed countless times to come, few can get you scratching your head like Gabriele Salvatores’ I’m Not Scared. The film won’t outright scare you, but it will have you pondering the notion of whether an easy way out is always possible.

Nine-year-old Michele (Giuseppe Cristiano) leads a pretty typical life in the countryside. He plays with his friends and has whatever fun he can in the barren landscape surrounding him. But one day, Michele discovers a boy named Filippo (Mattia Di Pierro) chained underground. Michele soon hears news reports of a kidnapped boy, quickly deducing that Flippo is the child in question. However, the question of what, if anything, Michele can do to help out remains the greatest mystery.

I’m Not Scared is an interesting tale. Salvatores approaches the central dilemma as any kid would: would you clam up or tell a grown-up? Michele wrestles with himself over which option to choose, suspicious of anyone and everything around him. After all, no one knows who snatched Filippo, but there are clues to be discovered. We grow increasingly curious the more Michele swims into the situation. The walls close in quickly, and the mood is almost always tense yet bittersweet at the same time. I’m Not Scared is as delicate as it is ruthless.

As well-paced as the film is, it won’t exactly blow your mind. There’s nothing really disappointing, but not much is done in the way of moving mountains. However, I’m Not Scared does go the extra mile with its characters. We see trusts, oaths, and lifelong friendships betrayed left and right, spending as much time lurking in the darkness as it does soaking up the sunshine. Salvatores shows a real talent for handling opposing forces here. Never is this more clear than with Michele and Filippo’s friendship; the two compliment one another well, with the aggressive Michele bonding with scrawny, timid Filippo.

The film’s only notable flaws show up near the end; overall, it’s a well-done work, but we’re not blown away by the ultimate effect. Once the credits roll, you feel satisfied enough to say you enjoyed it, though not to the point of debating character motivations or discussing memorable scenes. It feels like a slap in the face to the film, but that’s not by aim. It’s a good film that unfortunately falls short of being great.

I’m Not Scared does a nice job of evoking sunny memories with a bit of a dark side. It has a childlike innocence but is wise enough to recognize the dangers that come with being an adult. Check it out.

Rating: ★★★☆

-Chris Luedtke

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