Rebecca Antonaci shines in Saverio Costanzo’s Finalmente L’Alba, a film that might not be for everybody, but its quirkiness definitely comes with charm.
Finalmente L’Alba, from writer/director Saverio Costanzo, is a film about Hollywood glamour that really wants you to know it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s quirky, metaphorical, and a little muddled, but it introduces newcomer Rebecca Antonaci in a way that really showcases the youngster’s talent and has its own beguiling charm.
Mimosa (Antonaci), meekly in the shadow of her beautiful sister Iris (Sofia Panizzi), heads to a casting call for extras in the latest Cinecittà film shooting near their family home in Rome. She’s initially rejected, but as she’s wandering the backstage corridors looking for Iris, she catches the eye of the film’s volatile starlet Josephine (Lily James). Soon, she finds herself made up like an Egyptian handmaiden and all but dragged on to set. After the shoot is over, Mimosa is swept off by Jo, Hollywood heartthrob Sean (Joe Keery), and Jo’s friend Rufo (Willem Dafoe) for dinner and a showbiz party. But it doesn’t quite turn out to be the night of glamour that Mimosa may have expected.
Saverio Costanzo’s Finalmente L’Alba is an amalgamation of genre, all rolled up in a strange yet beguiling package. It’s a film about making films, and even includes snippets from the fictional productions in semi-surreal, dream like sequences. It’s a film about how the glamour of Hollywood, particularly that in 1950s Rome, is a mere façade, and that there are some things fancy gowns and make-up just can’t hide. And it’s also a film that crowbars in a reference to the famous unsolved murder of Wilma Montesi, and somewhat clumsily tries to liken Mimosa’s journey throughout the night as a redemption of sorts.
The end result is something that’s a bit off-kilter, a bit fantastical and also a bit all over the place. Finalmente L’Alba is, at its core, the story of Mimosa, a youngster who literally stumbles onto the showbiz stage, and newcomer Antonaci delivers an almost perfect wide-eyed ingénue. She struggles with her new companions as they speak English, relying on Defoe’s Rufo as a translator come guide. She is constantly in awe of the rich, glamourous people she finds herself surrounded by – including the Italian actress Alida Valli (Alba Rohrwacher), whom she admired in the cinema during the film’s opening sequence.
And although Mimosa starts the film quite shy and innocent, she has gained a new confidence by the end. Costanzo, quite literally, manifests this idea as an actual lion, one that roars protectively from its cage before her wild night of debauchery, but is walking proudly beside her by the morning. It’s a strange, semi-surreal way of visualising Mimosa’s journey, that almost acts in place of Mimosa having much dialogue at all. Instead, she’s just sort of led around, talked at and rarely to, humiliated and liberated, and essentially cycling through a coming of age story in the space of a few hours. It flirts with the edge of feeling like underdevelopment, but Antonaci says enough simply via facial expression that Costanzo gets away with it.
As the temperamental Josephine, Lily James’ performance feels deliberately discombobulated, switching from sweet to sultry to sulky in the blink of an eye. It works when the film has her as Josephine, but wobbles a bit during her starring turn as the Pharoah, where it feels – possibly deliberately – on the cheesier side. Joe Keery is suitably suave as the up-and-coming leading man, and Defoe might well be the nicest person Mimosa meets the entire evening. It’s an oddly curated but engaging cast that compliments each other well, elevating material that swings for the fences but doesn’t always land.
Finalmente L’Alba is a film that leans heavily into its style and isn’t afraid to utilise metaphor, surrealism and meta commentary – rich people really are the worst, aren’t they? – to its advantage. It’s a little odd, and might not be for everybody, but its quirkiness definitely comes with charm.
Finalmente L’Alba premiered at the 2023 Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2023. Read our list of films to watch at the 2023 Venice Film Festival and discover the 2023 Venice Immersive Lineup!