SIFF 2017: ‘Feather’ Movie Review

by Warren Cantrell on June 9, 2017

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

A tender coming of age tale stocked with a few poignant surprises, the Italian comedy, Feather (Italian: ‘Piuma’), will inevitably draw comparisons to like-minded pictures such as Juno or Knocked Up. Director Roan Johnson has done more than that, however, for his film transcends these predecessors to carve out its own unique place in the pregnancy-comedy genre. In fact, its closest spiritual relative would probably be Little Miss Sunshine, as it is about family, generational gaps, love, growing up, dreams, coming together…and a minivan.

The film stars Blu Yoshimi and Luigi Fedele as Cate and Ferro, respectively, who open the picture in the midst of a serious conversation about the former’s unexpected pregnancy. The pair are just weeks away from finishing high school, and have serious concerns about how and if they will be able to deal with a child. More pressing, however, is the issue of their parents, who aren’t expected to take the news very well. Cate, the more level-headed of the duo, lives with her step-mother and gambling addict father, while Ferro, perpetually in trouble, lives with his understandably stressed out father, sympathetic mother, and crotchety grandfather. When Cate and Ferro do get around to telling their folks the news, things go about as expected (Italians do frustrated screaming better than almost anyone), yet there’s a reprieve when Ferro’s parents agree to let the pair stay with them until things get sorted.

Broken into nine segments, one for each month, Feather follows Cate, Ferro, and their families as they all try to navigate the turbulent waters of a teenage pregnancy. The movie is as much about Cate and Ferro’s family as about them, which broadens the scope of the whole effort and allows the story to be about more than just an unexpected baby. Ferro’s dad, Franco (Sergio Pierattini), had been looking forward to retirement and relocation to Tuscany, yet rather than see one person move out, he faces the prospect of a woman and baby moving in. Cate’s man-child father, Alfredo (Francesco Colella), is himself forced to do some growing up, for his daughter no longer has the luxury of taking care of him AND a baby.

As Feather works its way through all nine months of Cate’s pregnancy, the audience watches as the characters take turns dealing with the collateral damage of the momentous development. Ferro is forced to mature, his parents and grandfather endeavor to weather the emotional maelstrom, Cate reevaluates her life’s options, and her dad struggles to find his place in the world. The cultural aspect of the film puts it in a unique place since it is all seen through the lens of an Italian family, and as such, events play out in a way that reflects the nuances of a 21st century Roman clan.

And while the demonstrative, fiery, running-hot-24/7 aspects of Italian culture are played up a bit (mostly for laughs), it is balanced out by reasonable, identifiable reactions from those involved. Indeed, while their mannerisms might come off as cartoonish at times, the universal language of “oh, fuck, our kid is pregnant/got someone pregnant” bridges any cultural divide. Franco, for example, fatigued by eighteen years of Ferro’s bullshit antics, teeters back and forth between labored understanding and exasperated surrender. The man had plans for how his life was going to unfold after Ferro went off to college, and one gets the sense that news of the pregnancy comes along right as his mid-life senioritis is kicking into high-gear.

If anything, the movie doesn’t go far enough in its exploration of how the women cope and change, with Ferro’s mom, Cate’s step-mom, and Cate herself all taking something of a backseat in the narrative. And while the men aren’t necessarily in control, or calling the shots, how they react to matters and deal with the various crises that pop up over the nine months sort of steer the car that is Feather.

The setting also feels like something of a missed opportunity, as it takes place in Rome, yet none of the recognizable landmarks or hidden gems of that ancient city make appearances. If anything, Johnson and his location scouts seem to have gone out of their way to feature the colder aspects of Italian architecture, and set many of their scenes indoors, in the van, or along highways and carparks. For a movie that wears its nationality on the sleeve, and is (rightfully) proud of the unique dynamics and interplay of Italian relationships, some establishing shots of familiar Roman locations would have gone a long way towards connecting these thematic dots.

This doesn’t keep Feather from being thoroughly entertaining or even poignant at times, though. The journey Cate, Ferro, and their families go on over the course of nine months is a celebration of family, love, forgiveness, and understanding, and while the overall tone of the picture is light and even a little goofy, what the audience gets out of the whole experience is anything but. Currently playing at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, Feather is a fun take on a familiar story in a foreign setting that is both deep and as light as the title of the effort would imply.

“Obvious Child” is the debut novel of Warren Cantrell, a film and music critic based out of Seattle, Washington. Mr. Cantrell has covered the Sundance and Seattle International Film Festivals, and provides regular dispatches for Scene-Stealers and his own site, 10rant.com. Warren holds a B.A. and M.A. in History, and his hobbies include bourbon drinking, novel writing, and full-contact kickboxing. Mr. Cantrell is happily unmarried, and without any children, pets, or plants.

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