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13th April 2022

MANIFF 2022: Atlas

Atlas shows promise but relies too much on cliches and showy storytelling
MANIFF 2022: Atlas

Allegra is an avid climber. After a trip to the Atlas mountains in Morocco goes horribly wrong, she has to return home and deal with the trauma she has been left with. This is not only mental but also physical as she attempts to regain her strength and begin to climb again without her climbing group, who died in Morocco. What then follows is a journey of recovery that involves questions of race and immigration in Italy and also the longstanding effects of trauma on basic everyday life. However, whilst the idea of exploring climbing as both a source of trauma and a catharsis of it is an interesting one, the film’s pacing and occasionally trite storytelling distract from the interesting human drama. 

The film plays with a non-linear style of storytelling, utilising many flashbacks in the opening act and then later on to suggest the ongoing trauma that these memories hold for Allegra. Whilst this is a well-used shorthand for telling these kinds of stories, here it seems misplaced and adds little to the film other than to unnecessarily complicate the film’s structure which ultimately detracts from the rather intimate emotional drama that it is trying to tell.

Moreover, the specific details of the disastrous event are withheld from the viewer. This is done in a way that dramatises the magnitude of pain when it finally arrives, which, although shocking, makes too much of a spectacle out of this moment. It betrays not only Allegra’s experiences but also those of many real-life victims of similar events. There is also a romantic plot between Allegra and a Moroccan musician which feels as though it could have been more deeply explored in order to move beyond surface readings of such a relationship. 

The cinematography, the premise and the lead actor Matilda de Angelis who plays Allegra all show a lot of promise. Ultimately, the film loses sight of its interesting emotional nuances and opts for showy storytelling that over-relies on cliché. The film left the viewer nodding along with its predictable final shot but wishing something more could’ve been made out of the set-up they were promised. 


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