I’m Not Scared is a chilling film. Told exclusively through a child’s point of view, this 2003 Italian effort from director Gabriele Salvatores (the Oscar winning Mediterraneo) centers on a 10 year old boy who discovers that the people in his town have committed an unspeakable crime, and how he slowly realizes that evil lurks in the most familiar of places. While out in a willowy field one day, Michele uncovers a grate in the ground, and discovers a child being held captive. Why is this happening? How long has the kid been down there? Who has done this?
Set in the late 70’s during the “Years of Lead,” a period of turbulent political and social unrest in Italy that stretched from the 60’s to the 80’s that was rife with kidnapping and terrorism, this film makes the most out of its sweaty summer setting, and while the film is a thriller by description, the narrative subverts many of your expectations simply due to the fact that it’s Michele who experiences everything in the story, with the adults off to the outskirts of the story, definitely still integral, but kept at a remove by the filmmakers in an effort to absorb the audience in the youngster’s fragile state of mind.
When you’re a child, you have a tendency to look on at adults with great awe, wondering what they are discussing and what is going on all around you.I’m Not Scared is one of the most unique “coming of age” movies that I’ve ever seen, precisely because it refuses to pander to the audience or to the lead youngster; he’s treated like an adult despite his age, and his reactions to the various situations he finds himself in are frighteningly believable, especially when contrasted with numerous films that depict children doing insane things that would surely scare the shit out of them.
Review by Nick Clement