Apparently based on a popular Sicilian legend, Donatella Maiorca’s film The Sea Purple tells the story of Angela, whose love for her best friend, Sara, shocks her town.
After repeated, brutal attempts to keep the young lovers apart, Angela’s family and the community relent under the bizarre condition that Angela live the rest of her life as a man, Angelo.
That promising setup sounds a little Three’s Company but is played with all the melodrama of a typical Italian telenovella. Even the score sounds like my nonna’s living room during her TV hour.
For all the glowering villains (the rape count is quite high) and moody chiaroscuro lighting, it’s hard not to be charmed by Angela (Maria Grazia Cucinotta). She’s a tomboy with a heart of gold and a resolve of iron who doesn’t take guff from anybody.
Her love for Sara is genuine and moving, and those first tentative scenes before they consummate their love are deeply affecting.
And it’s a fascinating portrait of 19th-century Sicily, where superstitious townsfolk call in witches to cure tomboyish girls yet turn a blind eye to the woman who poses as a man to marry her best friend.
Unfortunately, the story’s unrelenting brutality makes large segments of the film difficult to watch.