By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated May 30, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Respiro: Stefano D'Amadio

In Respiro, Valeria Golino, shimmery as a mermaid, plays Grazia, an earthy Italian fisherman’s wife who’s entirely free-spirited — and also frequently so seriously crazy that her family and friends don’t know whether to admire her sexy follia or send her away for psychiatric treatment. Emanuele Crialese’s summery drama, set on the sunbaked island of Lampedusa, off the western coast of Sicily, sighs a bit too poetically about the romance of mental illness; Grazia’s mood swings inspire Felliniesque antics, including liberating a kennel of impounded wild dogs and peeling off her thin little dress for an impromptu romp in the sea (to the embarrassment of her protective teenage son). For all Golino’s comeliness, she’s upstaged by the windy beauty of the landscape, and by Crialese’s attention — in an Italian neorealist way — to the routines of daily life in an insular, traditional culture. (Fishing has rarely looked so fascinating.) Travel agents should prepare for a bump in tourism.