All Grazia wants from her Italian fishing village is to cut her some slack. A married mother of three living on an island near Sicily, Grazia (Valeria Golino) is viewed by her community as manic-depressive -- or some hazily understood variant thereof.
"Either she's too happy, or she's too sad," one relative diagnoses, an opinion buoyed by incidents in which Grazia is caught swimming topless in view of the local fishermen and tarting up the local boys in women's makeup. To our eyes, her behavior may merely be a reaction to her unforgiving environment: Even her ostensibly loving husband (Vincenzo Amato) favors a strong-arming form of affection that leaves little room for benign mischief. Will Grazia's bond with her oldest boy, Pasquale (Francesco Casisa), rescue her from the fate of the not-so-mad?
An inviting performance by Golino and some outstanding underwater photography enliven director/writer Emanuele Crialese's adaptation of an Italian legend. But Crialese's understated approach to the material clouds its more mystical details in obscurity. (Those who go in cold will find the final act especially perfunctory.) At least there's no mistaking the appeal of Grazia's youngest son, Filippo (Filippo Pucillo), an endearing little ruffian whose habits include bellowing his every word with tough-guy bluster, flashing obscene hand gestures and showing his protective impulses toward his big sister (Veronica D'Agostino) by referring to her policeman suitor as a "goddamn cop." The smart money says he grows up to be Sonny Corleone.