‘Il ragazzo invisibile’
Back in December 2014, Oscar-winning Italian director Gabriele Salvatores released The Invisible Boy (Il ragazzo invisibile). However, a bit like the boy at the centre of its story, the movie all but disappeared outside of Italy. Languishing in its own void of invisibility here in the UK until its quiet release on streaming services in 2016. Consequently, this sadly led to the film all but vanishing from public consciousness here in the UK.
The Invisible Boy is rather unique in both embracing and transcending the thematic style of modern Italian cinema. Combining a deep love for comic book adventure, with the action of Stormbreaker. While surrounding this with the unmistakable artistic flare of Italian filmmaking. As we follow Michele (Ludovico Girardello) through the trials and tribulations of early adolescence. His journey wrapped in issues of identity, first love, and isolation. While he also tries to adapt to what can only be described as a tricky new superpower. One that both excites and enthrals, while also proving extremely problematic. Especially in the hands of a boy who is bullied at school, emotionally confused, and brimming with newfound desire.
From the outset screenwriting trio Fabbri, Rampoldi and Sardo ensure Michele sits uncomfortably on the periphery of his peer group. Neither accepted nor disliked; his presence at school verging on invisibility to all but two bullies. Both of whom make Michele’s life a living hell, as they torment and humiliate him at every opportunity. His situation made worse by his mother (Valeria Golino) being the local Police Inspector.
However, despite his ongoing torment, Michele finds himself excited by an upcoming Halloween party. His plan to attend as Spider-Man nearing realisation, as the money for his new costume, sits tucked in his sock. The excitement of purchasing the costume after school, lighting up an otherwise dreary school day. That is until his money is stolen by his regular bullies, who chase him through the school corridors with a paint gun. And as he lays sprawled on the ground with fellow pupils laughing, his costume plans equally end in tatters. Leading him to a secluded Chinese store with a mere 5 Euro note in his hand. Where a tight-fitting and decidedly dull superhero costume becomes his only real option.
Feeling down and alone Michele heads to the party wearing his costume. His personal mission to talk to classmate, crush, and new arrival in town Stella (Noa Zatta). Only to find himself once again the butt of jokes and humiliation. Leading to him to lock himself in the bathroom, where he wishes he was invisible to his fellow classmates.
Now they say you should also be careful what you wish for in the heat of the moment. And never was this more true for Michele than the morning after the party. When he wakes to find himself completely invisible. His newfound power initially thought to have come from the cheap costume and the wish he made. But as he realises the potential of this new power, his teenage mind goes into overdrive. As he eagerly torments his bullies, listens to secret conversations, and yes, even enters the girls changing room. Unfortunately not realising the power wears off after time. Leaving him somewhat embarrassed and humiliated as dozens of girls suddenly spot a naked boy in their presence.
However, are Michele’s powers simply attached to a wish, or has puberty unleashed a much bigger genetic change? As local children disappear and a mysterious man appears in his life claiming to be his father. Michele finds his world turned upside down, as he ultimately decides who he wants to be.
While the story may bounce along in a slightly haphazard fashion, The Invisible Boy is also delightfully fresh and engaging. Paying homage to X-Men, Spider-Man and the original Invisible Man. While equally embedding this in a joyous and energetic adventure that appeals to all ages. Meanwhile, the artistry of Italian filmmaking remains fully in place, with a rousing score of strings and nuanced reflection of teenage life, family, and identity. With newcomer Ludovico Girardello holding each scene with a truly magnetic debut performance. Equally, cinematography and effects shine in offering a visually stunning piece of work. That equals any young adult science fiction film coming from mainstream American studios. While in turn ensuring that effects only exist to further the film’s narrative. Something that European filmmakers often grasp far more than their US cousins.
This is a film that leaves the viewer wanting more, working up to a delicious final twist that ultimately paved the way for a sequel in 2018. However, on writing this review, that sequel is still not available here in the UK. Meaning we will all have to wait a little longer before joining Michele on his next big adventure.
Director: Gabriele Salvatores