Not of This World
[Fuori dal mondo]
          
          The Italian selection for the 1999 Best Foreign Language Academy Award,
 
 Not of This World centers on the unlikely relationship between a religious,
  Sister Caterina (a luminous Margherita Buy), and Ernesto, a nerdy, self-absorbed
  laundry owner (Silvio Orlando), who are brought together by a newborn. Director
  Giuseppe Piccioni takes great care to allow this central bond to unfold in a
  sensitive, almost poignant manner. Both principals have lessons to learn and
  each is brought to a new understanding through their interaction.

          Caterina is a year away from taking her final vows but she is headstrong in
  her determination to serve God, despite the misgivings of her mother and the
  concern of some of the older nuns with whom she lives. She has her life essentially
  planned out and expects to fulfill her duties as a missionary. In the meantime,
  she commutes to Milan to work with the poor in a soup kitchen. On her way to
  work one day, she is literally handed a child who had been found by a
  chain-smoking jogger. The baby, only a few hours old and wrapped in a sweater,
  awakens her latent maternal instincts. Without fully understanding why, Caterina
  is driven to find the baby's mother and starts by tracking the owner of the sweater.
  Her search leads her to Ernesto's establishment.

          For his part, Ernesto is a loner more concerned with providing quality service
  and making money than in forming lasting human connections. Just as the child
  strikes a chord in Caterina's life, she serves as a catalyst in Ernesto's. Running
  parallel to this main story is the tale of Teresa (Carolina Freschi), a young girl
  from a clearly unhappy family. Her mother feigns concern over her daughter's
  absence from home yet has renovated her bedroom for her own use and her oily
  stepfather clearly has more than paternal feelings for her (Piccioni makes this
  clear with just a few gestures and Freschi's pained expression). There is a
  common bond that links these three characters -- not the least of which is that
  Teresa worked for Ernesto and that Caterina and Ernesto both believe he is the
  abandoned child's father. Gradually these separate stories finally come together
  in a surprising but satisfying manner.

          Not of This World unfolds slowly and deliberately. Caterina faces a minor
  crisis of faith; her maternal instincts awakened, she only wants what's best for
  the baby boy (dubbed Fausto) yet like any good parent, she has to know when
  to let go. Buy perfectly captures Caterina's dilemma yet doesn't make it
  melodramatic or overblown. Her sensitive performance goes a long way to making
  the film watchable. Matching her is Orlando who physically resembles the late
  Peter Sellers. In one of the director's inversions, it is his Ernesto who blossoms;
  in other films it would be Caterina but here Ernesto undergoes the most radical
  of changes. The possibility of fatherhood awakens a more genial and caring side
  to his personality. Freschi is saddled with the most difficult role. An audience
  could be forgiven for not having sympathy for a young girl who abandons her
  child and then begins to rekindle a love affair but this screen newcomer makes
  Teresa's plight moving and understandable. There are also incisive performances
  from Maria Christina Minerva as a chocolate loving postulant, Sonia Gessner as
  the somewhat cold Mother Superior who plants the seeds of doubt about her
  vocation in Caterina's mind and Giuliana Lojodice as Caterina's mother.


                                  
Rating:                B
                                  
MPAA Rating:    NONE
                                  
Running time:    100 mins.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.