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Most American coming-of-age movies focus on sexual awakening, but European films tend to view loss of innocence in a broader context. Based on an internationally acclaimed novel by Niccolo Ammaniti, this extraordinary Italian thriller (2002) is a study in contrasts: light versus dark, youth versus maturity, the playful versus the lethal. A ten-year-old boy (Giuseppe Cristiano) and his pals spend a summer in the sun-drenched countryside, baiting each other into risky behavior. After one particularly risky dare the boy discovers something shocking in the cellar of an abandoned farmhouse. The ensuing crisis of conscience sets him at odds with a community that may be nurturing but also harbors grave secrets; as with all rites of initiation, knowledge brings peril and pain. Gabriele Salvatores directed. In Italian with subtitles. 110 min.

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