Zen in the Ice Rift @ image + nation

As much as small towns are billed as idyllic places to live they often, in reality, are nightmares for those who don’t slot into the “norm”. Maia lives such an existence. Maia (Eleonora Conti), who prefers to be called Zen, is sporty and androgynous looking making her a target for the small minds in her small town.

As a result she is rather withdrawn. Even from her teammates on the boys hockey team she plays for. Makes sense as she is a victim of plenty of bullying, so she has built up a wall to protect herself. Things begin to look a bit brighter for her when the coach tells Zen that she has been shortlisted for the Italian women’s national team. This means she would have to move to the training site and hopefully leave her troubled existence behind.

At the same time the popular Vanessa (Susanna Acchiardi), the girlfriend of the captain of the hockey team, is grappling with sex and whether she should engage in it with her boyfriend. Things go wrong and she ends up running away from home to hide out at the unoccupied lodge owned by Zen’s mother (Fabrizia Sacchi).

While there Vanessa and Zen, who previously had butt heads, spend time together and grow closer. Zen even shows a warmer side beginning to believe that there is someone she can trust. Both young women are on a trip trying to figure out who they are and there are going to be plenty of ups and downs along the way.

Though we have come some distance in regards to society’s acceptance of the spectrum of sexualities and gender fluidity, this is still hell for plenty of people. From bullying to violence all this is still something they are faced with. An escape is sought. Here the two who are feeling misunderstood seek each other for solace and that they are not alone.

Atmospheric for a teen drama, director Margherita Ferri, does rely on several of the cliches of the genre – with the cool girl coming together with the outsider – but manages to keep it fresh enough that it does not feel tired. She shows her eye on how shots are set up and ably sets up the pacing of the sometimes icy story. Rather stylishly done for a debut film.

We are all human. And that is basically what this film tries to get across. All of us are searching or feeling our way through life. How we think and behave is often an ongoing process which evolves. Zen is a character that tries to assert her individuality while at the same time desiring comfort from others.

A coming-of-age drama set against the picturesque backdrop of the Italian Apennine mountain range. It looks at subjects like sexuality, gender identity and sexual exploration.

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