‘Il Ragazzo Invisibile’
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 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. At the same time, 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 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), who is 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 costume, sits tucked in his sock. 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 plans lay in tatters. But, that does not stop Michele from hunting down a cheaper outfit. His destination a secluded Chinese store with a five euro note in his hand, and it’s here he finds a tight-fitting and decidedly dull superhero costume.
Feeling down and alone, Michele heads to the party wearing his costume. His personal mission to talk to a classmate, crush, and new arrival in town, Stella (Noa Zatta). However, once again, he finds himself the butt of jokes and humiliation. His only escape, the bathroom, where he wishes he was invisible to his classmates.
Now they say you should always be careful what you wish for in the heat of the moment. And never was this more true than for Michele. Because as he wakes, he finds 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 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 slightly in a haphazard fashion, The Invisible Boy is 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. The artistry of Italian filmmaking remaining entirely intact: the rousing score and artistic cinematography dovetailing with the best Italian coming-of-age filmmaking. Meanwhile, newcomer Ludovico Girardello holds each scene with a truly magnetic and engaging performance. The resulting film, equaling any young adult science fiction film coming from the mainstream American studios.
The Invisible Boy 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