“Jumping from High Places” is a sugary sweet, lightweight take on living with anxiety, a movie that gets credit for tackling the subject and showing off pretty people in a very pretty place — Bari, in Apulia on the very heel of the boot of Italy.
But as its framed as a 25 year-old’s decision to check off a bucket list of phobias left to her by her best friend, we know better than to expect anything particularly deep or wrenching, whatever the gravitas of Alice Urciuolo’s source novel.
Federica Torchetti of “Mondocane” is sad and winsome Sole, a young woman whose life is wholly circumscribed by her anxieties. She dropped out of art school because she’s afraid of “water, boats, amusement parks, bicycles, flying on planes, dogs” and so on.
There are levels to anxiety, she informs us — speaking to the camera in Italian, or dubbed into the language of your choice. “And I am proud to report that I am at the very top!
She’s off her meds, in therapy and getting a little better. But the return of the hunky brother, Massimo (Lorenzo Richelmy) , of her the best friend who left her a couple of years before throws anxious Sole for a loop.
A wealthy classmate Miriam (Celeste Savino) who has just gotten her Phd and who barely gave her the time of day back in school takes an interest in her. But Sole can hang with the former cool girls now cool young women all she wants. She has to get drunk to be able to remain at a party, and can’t even watch the region’s famous cliff divers plunge into the azure blue Mediterranean without a mid-level freakout.
When Massimo passes on a note sister Emma left for Sole, she starts thinking. And when Miriam and her crew get hold of it, they have a mission. Help Sole conquer a few fears. Check off this phobias list.
Her shrink endorses the idea. So will she make it on a plane, travel to Rome for art school, show others her sketches and make a pass at her age-old crush, Massimo?
Sole turns to the camera for many deadpan or cutesie reactions to this or that situation or suggestion, not quite minimizing her fears that “everyone is in on a secret” and that secret is judging and mocking her in everything she says or does.
The cutest little neighbor dog sends her fleeing in the opposite direction.
There’s only one attempt to visualize with the camera what’s going on in Sole’s head, to let us see her world upended by being in a crowd, stepping on a boat or the merest frown from a stranger (she takes on a waitressing job…for one scene).
As I noted, the film gets credit for tackling the subject, but not much more than that. This is superficial in the extreme, more of a teen rom-com treatment than a suffering adult’s wrestling with the disease.
Still, the scenery’s swell, the cast is so very Italian — gorgeous and effortlessly stylish. The costumer could only go so far to give Sole a repressed nerdy look — dresses and blouses buttoned to the very top.
I didn’t find “Jumping from High Places” offensive, or particularly illuminating. But it does seem harmless enough for what it is, and that’s not exactly an endoresement.
Cast: Federica Torchetti, Celeste Savino, Cristiano Caccamo and Massimo Di Lorenzo
Credits: Directed by Andrea Jublin, scripted by Chiara Parenti, based on the novel by Alice Urciuolo. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:29