Carolina Cavalli's film about a friendless young woman brilliantly captures the anxiety and social ineptitude of the post-COVID youth
There are more than a few hints of the Greek-language works of Yorgos Lanthimos in this sharply funny Italian debut from writer-director Carolina Cavalli about a young woman who has managed to build an insular social order all for herself and then become a prisoner of her own design. Amanda is a cutting European comedy of manners, but also speaks powerfully to the very modern anxieties of Gen Z (and younger) kids and their parents that the digital, COVID-era world is one that has robbed the new generations of any ability to form meaningful connections.
Amanda (Benedetta Porcaroli) is an upper-crust young woman who has returned home to her family’s grand old house after a stint at a Parisian university that failed to get her out of her socially inept shell. Now she spends her spends her days sulking and running around her childhood home (by nights she sleeps in a neon-soaked apartment in town, as her bedroom has been given to her 8-year-old niece), as if permanently stuck at age 12. Porcaroli does a superb job of balancing Amanda’s “ages,” as it were, managing to be difficult in both a pre-teen (the way she hops past her mum’s office door is an incredible bit of physical immaturity) and young adult (calling her family’s housekeeper ‘bourgeois’) ways.
It’s a silly yet empathetic lead performance that consistently informs the entire film as Amanda gives herself various little quests to keep busy, from caring for a neglected local horse to getting enough points at her local supermarket to buy an electric fan. As for more existential concerns, she also wants to make a friend, a task she has proved exceptionally poor at her whole life, until she’s reminded that she used to play with a local girl called Rebecca (Galatea Bellugi) and can use that as an icebreaker.
Rebecca, though, is perhaps even odder than Amanda, a borderline shut-in who takes a very long time to warm to her new/old friend (neither of them seem to actually remember the purported playdates, simply taking the stories on faith from their respective mothers). Their cautious bonding is genuinely sweet at points – for both of them, an unabashed smile is a rarity, so they become very powerful whenever we do catch a glimpse of a grin. Cavalli populates her world with a number of other oddballs, from a prospective boyfriend for Amanda who works as a condom dispenser at festivals to Amanda’s older sister Marina, who seems to genuinely despise her sibling.
It’s all a lot of surreal fun, bolstered by the slightly uncanny sets and locations, all adding to the general sense of the outside world being the one that’s unreal and impossible to navigate. It’s generally one of my least favourite tropes to call a film “timely,” given how actually timeless most contemporary issues are, but with Amanda, Porcaroli has genuinely crafted a tale for our specific time, capturing the anxious, defensive heart of one of the least social generations of young people the western world has ever produced.
Amanda is released in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 2 June.Where to watch