It’s hardly possible to contemplate that a community can be effectively trapped in time. A time where they toil and live in poverty oblivious that the world around them has moved on.

That is what happened to the people of Inviolata who after sounding the alarm for a missing boy are visited by the police who, incredulous at what the find, bring the community right up to date. That is
the old Sharecropping agreements had come to an end. These were agreements that effectively kept the peasants in semi-slavery by the landowners and were converted to leases thus granting the workers the right to negotiate. They were being swindled.

They may still be toiling if Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) the supposedly simple and well-meaning workhorse of the community hadn’t befriended Tancredi (Luca Chikovani) son of the Marchesa who effectively runs the town.

It’s an odd friendship as they have very little in common though it develops through Tancredi’s overactive imagination and manipulation of Lazzaro’s natural good nature. It occurs to Tancredi, triggered maybe through privilege and boredom, to concoct a kidnap plot using Lazzaro to help him.

The film then takes a tonal and temporal shift with Lazarro making his way to the city where he’s reunited with members of the community almost no better off than they were before, and now themselves having to turn to theft and swindling to survive.

They look beaten and haggard, in poverty, living in a disused water tower, surviving on crisps. Their only release is savouring a newspaper article about their time in Inviolata that they hope will lift them out of their penury.

Alice Rohrwacher’s direction is thoughtful and beautiful; a film of translucent colours and grisly images, of complex ideas of the relentless passage of time that takes no prisoners and no concessions. The people although now free are just as trapped as they were. The community’s brutal past of servitude now their brutal present of freedom. They stick together with the hope that one day justice will be served, it’s a bond of necessity or maybe true affection.

It’s a fable of our times that while internationally transferable, is quite specific to Italy – the image of the national animal the wolf is recurrent – with the devastation of the economy and the effects on the population palpable. This is counterpointed by the mystical presence of Lazzaro a man of endless kindness and will.