By Amber Roberts
Directed by Vittorio Moroni
If I Close My Eyes I’m Not Here is a coming of age film based around a sensitive and intelligent sixteen year old named Kiko who spends his life surrounded by adults who are against his education. The film is set in Northern Italy and director Vittorio Moroni uses the location’s astounding and atmospheric views to his advantage throughout the film, consistently adding to the cinematic tone, drama and performances.
In the early stages of the movie, you see Kiko self-harming, but Vittorio Moroni directs it in a way that’s not gruesome to watch but rather more intriguing. You slowly learn that Kiko is doing this to stop himself from feeling pain, so that he won’t feel anything when his mother’s boyfriend, Ennio, beats him up.
When you first view the film’s bus, you feel like you are in Kiko’s room but you soon realise it’s an abandoned vehicle by a freeway, giving this place more meaning than it should. Looking more closely at the mise en scí¨ne during this shot, you can see that Kiko has taken a shine to the broken down vehicle. Not only is it a shrine for his father, Jacopo, it is also his safe place and haven. As the movie progresses, you gain a real sense that Kiko can only be himself when he is inside this bus.
When he heads home, his mother, born in the Philippines, seems very distant and acts very childishly compared to the more adult scenes that have just been witnessed beforehand. Kiko has to work during the evenings with Ennio, who we see exploit and take advantage of illegal immigrants. The more horrific scenes always take place at Kiko’s house which often leaves the viewer feeling helpless and unsettled, a mood which is brilliantly highlighted when Kiko’s new guardian begins to chase him around the house.
There is a strong sense of philosophical phrasing and poetic touches added into the movie which makes the viewer feel like they are going through the school process with Kiko rather than simply watching him endure the education he struggles to study for. His father in law believes that education is a waste of time and Kiko should spend his time working but, at sixteen, many teens revolt against the parents and go about their own thing – before realising that their parents were right. Kiko is struggling to come to terms with the sudden loss of his father and how his mother is now dating this abusive man. This only adds to the resentment he has for the world and he is left feeling misunderstood by those around him.
You often see Kiko falling asleep and falling behind at school and it is incredibly heart wrenching when you can see how intelligent he is. Ennio’s refusal to allow him to study means he has to do so at night and the long, contracting hours are burning him out, making Kiko fail and drop behind his classmates.
In a defining moment in the film, the teacher makes a statement that the maths test has to be done on a computer, which Kiko doesn’t have. He tries to steal one from a shop but is caught red handed. A supposed old friend of his dad comes into the scene, buys Kiko the laptop and offers to help him out in the future. This leaves us feeling very confused as to where this man has come from but hoping he changes Kiko’s life for the better. The stranger, known as Ettore, plays the part very well and is just what Kiko needed – a mentor to teach him about life. Kiko begins to flourish but this is very short lived before the inevitable happens. The ending is quite different to what you would’ve expected. Then again, this film is far from a fairy tale and depicts the hardships of the working class background brilliantly.
If I Close My Eyes I’m Not Here is a great watch, guiding you through the life of a sixteen year old who is wise beyond his years. Through all the hardships that Kiko and his family must endure, it is an enjoyable film which leaves you wishing you could keep on watching.
Watch If I Close My Eyes I’m Not Here on FilmDoo.com. (UK & Ireland only)
Read FilmDoo’s interview with director Vittorio Moroni here!
Find more Italian films here.