La Chimera


TV is such a great proving ground for young actors, as a role in a particular show can catapult a career by several levels – just ask a lot of the cast of Channel 4’s drama Skins.

And yet a show doesn’t have to be as edgy as that, as early Sunday evening’s ITV drama The Durrells illustrated. It was the perfect comfort show to round off a weekend, as it saw the Durrell family move to Corsica for many an island adventure.

The eldest of the children was played by Josh O’Connor, who probably didn’t realise it at the time, but it was to be the perfect foundation for his acting career.

So much so that his most recent film Challengers sees him play opposite current hot talent Zendaya. And yet, at the same time, who stars in this charming Italian curiosity as an out of sorts archaeologist.

boom reviews La Chimera
The Goonies remake was seen by many as a disappointment.

When you think of the world of archaeology, it’s difficult not to think of it as one Indiana Jones adventure after another. But that’s not the case for Arthur (O’Connor), who finds himself in 1980s Lazio, Italy. He has a gift for discovering tombs, sadly in the most unromantic locales such as building sites, using a divining rod, used primary for locating water.

He has a band of Italian misfits, who believe in his abilities, who work with him, who dig out these treasures and sell them on, in a not terribly legal fashion.

But Arthur is distracted by the memories of a former love, which means he’s not as focused as he should be with his work, especially as he’s in a fair amount of debt with a mysterious dealer.

boom reviews La Chimera
The nerves were setting in backstage at Italy's Got talent.

This must be the young actor’s European period as both his recent films are helmed by Italian directors; Luca Guadagnino with Challengers and Alice Rohrwacher with this one.

This is the director’s follow-up to the delightful 2018 Happy as Lazzaro, and on that evidence alone it’s understandable why O’Connor would want to work with her, given the opportunity.

And just as there was with that film, this one has a melancholic whimsy to it. And where that one had religious connotations, this one has more of a Shakespearian dramady quality to it.

Arthur is a tortured soul, haunted by his past, which is ironic as his profession relies so heavily on it.

His comrades however, are more like a theatrical troupe, which follow and entertain him, with music and song, and a comedic energy about them all.

Due to his gift, Arthur finds himself their adopted leader, as he leads them from one grave to the next.

The young British actor does well as an archaeologist with a lot on his mind, who appears to be living far from his best life.

Rohrwacher is fairly playful with the mood throughout, being light and airy for most of the time, but is occasionally tinged with a brooding glumness. She also plays with the framing too, as if flicking through an old photography album, remembering the past.

It’s a film that certainly has it charm, and is a great advert for what to expect if you find yourself in Italy amongst its many eccentric people.

The narrative is a little woolly in places however, missing a few dots as you attempt to join them, and only just being held together by a thread – literally.

It does show O’Connor in an excellent light however, pursuing more artistic roles that will most certainly make him a better actor.

It also proves, despite its few shortcomings, that Rohrwacher is a talented director, who clearly won’t take much to be an Italian national treasure herself.

we give this three out of five