Luca Paolucci riding his bike through the town of San Giovanni Rotondo.
It is summertime in southern Italy. We meet twelve-year-old Luca Paolucci (Andrea Solombrino) from the small town of San Giovanni Rotondo. Like many kids his age, he enjoys riding his bicycle around town, hanging with friends, and exploring the sights. But besides just enjoying his time off from school, Luca is determined to do something more with his free time. As the film opens we see Luca visiting the church and museum of Padre Pio, a local Capuchin friar who lived during the twentieth century and was later made a saint in the Catholic Church. After his visit, Luca is inspired to write a book about Padre Pio. At dinner that evening he tells this to his family which consists of his father Dr. Paolucci (Massimiliano Pazzaglia), a research scientist at Padre Pio Hospital, his housewife mother (Antonella Ponziani), and younger sister Miranda (Karol Mazzei). The Paolucci family is doing well. They have a nicely furnished house, plenty to eat, and are dressed in the latest popular fashion. In the case of Luca, that means wearing the latest designer print and sports tee or polo shirts, shorts or jeans, and new pairs of chucks worn with no show socks. Luca also has a new mountain bike to ride around in, a cell phone, and a laptop computer he uses to write his book, make video calls, and surf the Internet. Their family life is pleasant. The parents and kids are well connected and communicate well. Miranda and Luca have typical sibling rivalries and disputes. Their boy versus girl repartee provides most of the comedy in the film, but they still show genuine love and respect for each other.
Sebastiano and Luca at their meeting place between their villages.
Luca’s project idea is to interview some of the remaining people who knew Padre Pio when they were younger and compile their stories into a book. As Padre Pio died in 1968, it is important to collect their stories before it is too late. Luca is determined to include his best friend Sebastiano (Mariano Barnabà), an only child who lives in the nearby town of San Marco in Lamis, in his project. Sebastiano’s family is having hard times. His mother (Lucia Stara) is in declining ill health, and his relationship with his father (Paco Reconti) is strained. Luca contacts Sabastiano, and they meet at their usual meeting place at a rock wall halfway between their two towns. Luca wants his friend to become involved to take his mind off his home situation. After they meet, Sabastiano accepts Luca’s offer to collaborate on his project. Luca breaks his piggy bank and uses his savings to buy some books about Padre Pio. Through his research, Luca is able to locate local people who knew Padre Pio and set up appointments to interview them along with Sebastiano. First on the list is Mrs. Archangela, who explains to them how Padre Pio was capable of bilocation, the ability to be in two places at once. Next they meet with Father Villani, a Capuchin friar who knew Padre Pio when he was a student. Father Villani described how Padre Pio continually helped people suffering and in need, especially in the post-World War II years, had extraordinary gifts of empathy and understanding, and displayed the stigmata (wounds of Christ) on his body. Then Father Laborde, another Capuchin friar, showed them around the convent where Padre Pio actually lived and worked while he was alive. These interviews spark discussions between Luca and Sebastiano as they absorb what they have learned.
Luca and Sebastiano interviewing Mrs. Archangela, an elderly lady who knew Padre Pio.
What the boys are doing starts to get noticed by others in the community, and they are even interviewed about their project on a local television show. Meanwhile, at Sebastiano’s home, the situation is getting worse. The doctor treating Sebastiano’s mother tells them that the treatment she has been receiving has not worked. The doctor plans to schedule a new experimental treatment for the following week. The atmosphere is very glum at Sebastiano’s home due to his mother’s illness and his father’s excessive drinking. Sebastiano and his father argue a lot and exchange bitter words. Sebastiano even gets slapped in the face when he tells his father that he hates him. A cooling off period is arranged by Sebastiano’s uncle who picks up his nephew and Luca to spend a few days at his home in Pietrelcina, which happens to be the birthplace of Padre Pio. How these threads of the story gradually are intertwined and resolved makes up the rest of the film.
Luca having a conversation with his father.
We’ll Rise At Dawn is the work of Italian filmmaker Jean-Marie Benjamin. Subtitled “The Strength of Friendship”, his focus in the storyline was how young Luca’s desire to help his friend Sebastiano through a difficult time in his life led to a number of other good developments. The film has a very pastoral feel to it, in a backdrop of beautifully shot scenery in southern Italy. This tone is continued in the characterizations of family life. The interplay between the members of the Paolucci family is pleasant to watch, especially between Luca (Andrea Solombrino) and his younger sister Miranda (Karol Mazzei). It is refreshing to hear their well-written witty and funny dialogue as they assert themselves in the family dynamic. They each have distinct personalities that play well together. Their acting performances are spot on, especially the performance of Andrea Solombrino as the determined yet respectful and caring twelve-year-old. While much of the film focuses on the life and legacy of Padre Pio, it is presented in a way that shows the natural cultural aspect of the Catholic Church in Italy and in a way that would encourage family discussion. In Italian with English subtitles.
Luca seated on a bench on the Padre Pio trail.
A brief close up of Luca’s red low top chucks while riding his bike.
Andrea Solombrino (Luca) wears red or navy blue low top chucks throughout the film. The camera work is particularly chucks-friendly and Luca is framed in many of the shots wearing them. The best chucks scenes are when Luca rides his bike around the area and we see brief close ups of his red or blue low tops. Luca’s friend Sebastiano wears black and tan low tops throughout the film also. Wearing chucks continues to be a popular footwear choice for boys these days.
Luca uses his red chuck to help bring his bike to a halt.
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