Love Me Tender follows the point of view of a woman suffering from agoraphobia and the film doesn’t make light of mental health.
Some forms of one’s mental health are visibile while others are not. In Seconda’s (Barbara Giordano) case, she suffers from acute agoraphobia. This means that she suffers from panic attacks and anxiety in large open spaces. It is important that writer-director Klaudia Reynicke doesn’t make fun of those who are suffering. While watching the film, one cannot help but feel empathy for Seconda.
Things go from bad to worse when Seconda’s mom dies and her father suddenly runs off. Worst of all, local bailiff Henry (Gilles Privat) leaves creepy messages while trying to secure debts. The messages are so bad and very insulting to say the least. During one such message, Henry refers to Seconda as a “dirty little slut.” The film is Italian but anyone using such language on the job would be fired. The film doesn’t treat it in a way that makes it feel like a commentary on #MeToo.
Bottle collector Santo (Antonio Bannò) makes a stop at the house. Seconda uses this as a possible way to get the house off of her hands while also getting him to kill her. Hey, she had to try something even though he declines to do so. When Seconda finally musters up the courage to leave the house, she decides to wear a blue onesie (or something similar) for protection. There are people giving her strange looks and she responds in way that comes off as being immature.
It’s a brilliant acting job from Barbara Giordano. Together, she and Reynicke work to approach this from the right angle. Even if she’s not talking, we see the fear in Seconda just by the way that she postures her body. It’s the small things that–when combined–make this performance just right. What we have in Seconda is a character that film goers rarely get to see on screen. We already know that no human is perfect. Seconda has flaws just like anyone of us. In this case, it’s a fear of leaving her house and being in public spaces. The film could have gone in any direction and make her look crazy but doesn’t do so.
What Love Me Tender does in a beautiful way is depict mental health in a way that we just don’t get to see very often.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Klaudia Reynicke
CAST: Barbara Giordano, Antonio Bannò, Gilles Privat, Federica Vermiglio, Maurizio Tabani, Anna Galante