In the classic sense, A Chiara is not an initiation film. Yes, it’s framed through the eyes of its 15-year-old protagonist, but the film isn’t meant to follow her from childhood to (early) adulthood, no matter how hard she tries. Instead, writer-director Jonas Carpignano wants to investigate the theme of “coming of age.” A Chiara quietly and convincingly pleads for a minor’s right to self-determination by revealing how easy it is for someone to be tied down to a life they wouldn’t have chosen for themselves , in a social and family structure that places great importance on the milestone of growing to an increasingly sinister degree.
Chiara and her family reunite to celebrate her sister Giulia’s 18th birthday in this Italian-language drama set in southern Calabria. Later that night, when a car is bombed outside Chiara’s house and she watches her father, Claudio, flee on foot, the joyful atmosphere of speeches and dancing turns sour. Carmela is frustrated but undeterred when her daughter’s mother rejects her request for an explanation, telling her she’s too young to understand. When she finds out from the news that Claudio is wanted by the authorities in connection with the ‘Ndrangheta, a mafia deeply rooted in her region, she vows to find him by doing the one thing that puts her in the most danger: ask questions. .
What is it about A who is so smart? Chiara’s take on the subject is that he never really tries to persuade the viewer that this girl’s path will end in bloodshed. As she strives to break down the door to the criminal underworld, it becomes clear that the peril is not for her body, but for her soul. Chiara is not an intruder; the answers she seeks will be freely provided to her if she waits until she is mature enough to understand them. It becomes apparent, perhaps more quickly to the audience than to Chiara, that what she has truly discovered is a glimpse into her own future – at least the one her family has planned for her.
A Chiara becomes a fascinating watch until the dramatic question becomes whether this 15-year-old girl can escape her situation by searching for the truth, and if she will even if she finds it.