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LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI

Starring: Pia Miranda, Greta Scacchi, Matthew Newton, Anthony LaPaglia and Kick Gurry
Director: Kate Woods
Rated: M

JOSIE Alibrandi lives between two worlds.

This teenage girl (played by Pia Miranda) is a third generation working-class Italian/Australian on a scholarship to Sydney’s exclusive St Martha’s College.

School is filled with the usual angst of many Catholic seniors – dealing with spoilt and envious classmates; running the gauntlet of the headmistress, Sr Louise (Kerry Walker), and being infatuated with John Barton (Matthew Newton), the heart throb of St Anthony’s College while being pursued by Cook High School’s Jacob Coote (Kick Gurry).

Home has the hallmarks of an Italian ghetto – language, food and a dramatically over protective Nonna (Elena Cotta). Pasta sauce is made in the backyard and prayers are offered up to any saint who will listen.

Unlike most her classmates, however, Josie does not know her father. Rather than go through with an abortion when Josie was conceived, Christina (Greta Scacchi) bore the child. Without knowing he has a daughter Michael (Anthony LaPaglia) moved to Adelaide. Seventeen years later he returns to town.

Melina Marchetta adapted her bestselling novel for the screen. She kept what is best in the book – a believable and engaging story, likeable characters, great comic touches and a powerful message.

Looking for Alibrandi is about identity and blame. All the major characters in this film are on a journey of discovery, of confronting past lies and uncovering family secrets.

{This film looks at issues that many of our young people have to confront – marriage breakdown, living between cultures, youth suicide and grief. The exploration of these issues, however, is done with empathy and insight. As a result, Looking for Alibrandi helps us all look at our young, our society and ourselves. This is sort of immigrant story The Wog Boy was trying to be.

I don’t often describe a film as a “must-see”, but this is one of them.

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