Loner Michele (Miki) Silenzi goes through an incredible life change and adventure in The Invisible Boy.
As The Invisible Boy opens, we see an institutionalized young man scraping out a detailed mural of a town, then collapsing. A watching authority figure says, “I think we pushed him too far.” The significance of this becomes known to us later as the scene shifts to the real life version of the artwork, the seaside town of Trieste, Italy. We see thirteen-year-old Michele (Miki) Silenzi (Ludovico Girardello) riding on his bicycle through the business district. Miki is heading to a costume shop, where he wants to buy a Spiderman outfit for Halloween. As is typical in Miki’s frustrating life, the store owner has closed the shop for the lunch break, and even though Miki flashes a €50 note in the window, the owner won’t let him in. So Miki must go back to school, hiding the note inside his high top chuck. We soon see why he does this during his math class. Two school bullies seated in the back of the classroom, Ivan (Riccardo Gasparini) and Brando (Enea Barozzi), have it in for Miki. They mock him when his mother Giovanna (Valeria Golino), a local policewoman, comes into his class to tell the students about a kid who has gone missing, warn them to be careful, and ask for information, but especially after she goes up to Miki and gives him his snack, which he had forgotten at home. Later Brando and Ivan track Miki down in the boy’s bathroom, where he went due to a bloody nose. Brando and Ivan smash in the stall where Miki hides, then rough him up and steal his money. To add to Miki’s humiliation, Ivan chases him through the floors of the school, shooting at him with his paint ball gun. When Miki is finally hit with a splat of paint and falls to the ground, Brando adds insult to injury by walking by him and stepping on his outstretched hand. (Apparently a kid shooting a gun is not an issue at this school!) Now Miki only has enough money at home for a very cheap costume that he must purchase at a bargain store. He wants a superhero costume but all he can afford is a pajama-like outfit worn by an unnamed Chinese hero with unknown powers. Later when Miki appears at Stella’s (Noa Zatta) costume party (she is the girl of his dreams), again Brando and Ivan humiliate him by showing a video he took of Stella in class that they stole off his cell phone that implies he is obsessed with her. Everyone chases Miki upstairs, where he locks himself in a bathroom, looks in the mirror, and wishes that he could just disappear. As people are pounding on the door, Miki is able to escape out the window, eventually jumping down to the street below.
Classmates Ivan and Brando mug Miki in the boys’ bathroom.
The film now moves into its second phase. The next morning Miki wakes up to discover that he is indeed invisible. After getting over the shock and surprise that the costume did have magical powers, he is able to dodge his mother, who wonders where he is, by leaving a note on his bed. But to be invisible to others he must go out naked, and there is a great wide angle shot as we see Miki walking up the stairs to his school while no one else has any idea he is there. At school, he can now exact revenge on Ivan, by grabbing his paint ball gun out of his backpack, firing it in the direction of their teacher, and tossing it back to Ivan, who now will be punished by the school and his father. He also fixes his math test paper that was blank due to his bloody nose. Miki tracks down Brando next at a tennis tournament, and makes him lose by interrupting his serves and freaking him out later by bouncing around tennis balls. Happy with his success, Miki gets the bright idea of going into the girls’ locker room, when he sees Stella’s class headed for the showers. Everything is great until suddenly his body starts to reappear, and now Miki is a visible naked boy in the girls’ locker room. Luckily for Miki he isn’t suspended from school, just warned, probably due to the intercession of his mother. Now the film continues with more interplay of Miki trying to figure out how to control his new power. All along, young Candela (Assil Kandil), the daughter of the Silenzi’s housekeeper, has been taking a role in Miki’s life, giving him advice, and egging him on when he is indecisive about what to do. When Miki’s costume is put in the wash and shrinks, Candela puts it on, hoping to gain the power for herself, but it doesn’t happen. When Miki becomes invisible again, he discovers that he is adopted when he overhears a telephone conversation between his mother and a psychologist. Very upset, he goes off to a seaside park to try and figure out things while sitting on a swing set. A great scene follows when Stella, who happens to be walking nearby, sees the swing moving with apparently no one in it, goes to check things out, and becomes enamored of this invisible boy.
Miki, now invisible, goes back to school to get his revenge on Ivan and Brando, and fix his grade in math.
Now the film enters its third stage, and what we saw at the very beginning is now linked to the story. Miki meets up with Andreij (Hristo Zhivkov) a blind man with dreadlocks who has appeared on the periphery of several scenes in the movie. Andreij tells Miki that he is his real father, and takes time to explain to the boy who he really is, where he comes from, and why he has special powers (that didn’t come from a Halloween costume). He also provides Miki with a black outfit that was developed for his power, so he won’t have to go around town naked. A group of ruthless people from Russia are trying to recover the special child of Andreij and his real mother, who have similar powers to what Miki now has. That is why talented children in town have gone missing, as the group is searching for the missing “special”. First there was Martino (Filippo Valese), a mathematical genius, followed by Brando, who was told to walk home after losing the tennis tournament but never arrived, and finally they go after Stella, who is a talented gymnast. Things get serious for Miki when he sees Stella being kidnapped from her gymnastics practice and he is unable to stop the man responsible. Now Miki must use his special powers to try and rescue the girl of his dreams and defeat the gang that is trying to take him as well.
Miki in his invisible state kicking back and enjoying a comic book.
The Invisible Boy is beautifully shot and the script-writing trio of Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi, and Stefano Sardo provide us with an interesting script that has a certain plausibility to it, despite its fantastic elements and somewhat clichéd ending. The film is well cast with young Ludovico Girardello giving a finely nuanced performance as he evolves from loner/outsider to a confident superhero. Noa Zatta has a pleasing presence in her role as Stella, the girl of Miki’s dreams. There are marked differences between this film, one of the first European entries into the superhero genre, and those produced in America. One of the main differences is a lot less dependence on special effects and chase scenes, with more focus on character development and narrative. In this film that would be teen problems like shyness, bullying, communication, and family issues. A second difference is that the actors don’t all look “perfect” like they would in an American production. A third difference is how European films use and handle nudity (see also our review of Blinker en de Blixvaten), often deliberately including it as a plot element without any embarrassment. Director Gabriele Salvatores keeps the action moving, even through the rather complex background and subplots that appear in the middle of the story. The Invisible Boy is clearly set up for a sequel film, scheduled for production in 2016. Right now the film is available in a region 2 DVD with subtitles. Although not rated in our MPAA system, the film would clearly fall into the PG-13 range, with a few scenes that might be upsetting for younger kids.
A policeman and Stella watching Miki in his Invisible Boy outfit.
Miki is working on his math homework.
With the continuing popularity of the superhero genre, it is great to see another film where the main character wears chucks in his regular life. Ludovico Girardello wears maroon high top chucks with side zippers in his role of Miki Silenzi, the boy whose superpowers include the ability to become invisible. The cinematography is chucks friendly in this film, with a lot of close ups mostly during action sequences in the story. For example, when Miki escapes from Stella’s party by jumping out of a second story window, the camera focuses on his chucks as he lands on the street below.
Miki hits the street outside after escaping from Stella’s party.
Noa Zatta, who plays Stella, wears black high top chucks in the film. We first see them in an extended scene when she comes across Miki in his invisible state at a swing set by the ocean.
Stella falls for the invisible boy when they meet at a seaside swing set.
Later the camera focuses on her chucks when she must walk a long distance on narrow metal girders to escape from where she and the other missing kids are being held prisoner.
After escaping from the room where she is being held, Stella employs her balance beam skills to go and warn the authorities.
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