Opening on a spiritual ceremony that sees veiled mother-to-be Agata wash her bloodied hand in the waves, it is immediately obvious that the world of Piccolo Corpo is endowed with a profoundly mythic quality, the steady pace of Laura Samani’s debut feature film drawing you into its enchantingly folklorish world.

However, when Agata gives birth to a stillborn daughter, the baby is consigned to a spiritual limbo of eternal restlessness. Dissatisfied with this notion – unlike the father who insists they’ll have more children – Agata hears about a church in the mountains that will give her baby a single breath of life and thus a baptism, setting her off on a journey far from her home of seafaring fishermen.

Cannes 2021 Review: A Woman Risks Her Body to Save a Soul in Laura Samani's  Absorbing "Piccolo Corpo" - The Moveable Fest

Celeste Cescutti is brilliant as Agata, cutting an image of steely maternal determination throughout, the raw emotion of her trauma plain to see. Her journey quickly pairs her up with Ondina Quadri’s Lynx, a seemingly lost soul living on the fringes of society who, despite initially attempting to palm Agata off as a wet nurse, soon agrees to take her to where she wants to go.

On their journey they encounter highway robbers and a mystical mountain that is said to claim the lives of all women who enter, but in the middle act the film does start to slightly drag. The interplay between the two not quite enough to propel the film towards its conclusion in an interesting way.

Having said this, Samani undeniably constructs an atmosphere that crescendos in a beautiful and touching way, the final few scenes packing an emotional punch the majesty of which is compounded by a chorus of singing voices. A stunningly shot and beguiling tale of grief and motherhood, Piccolo Corpo marks Laura Samani as a director to watch.

★★★½

This review was written by Oli Gamble, member of the thatfilmbloguk team, American and Canadian Studies student, and co-host of the thatfilmbloguk podcast.