A 37-minute commercial palette-cleanser between Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria reimagining and his no less than four upcoming projects, The Staggering Girl is an assured and exquisite-looking entry into the director’s dreamscape of work. Created in partnership with Italian fashion house Valentino, it idly wanders between the current day and childhood memories, tailing Julianne Moore’s sombre writer Francesca and her patchy relationship through the years with her mother (played by Marthe Keller in the present-day and Mia Goth via flashback). The garments serve as a sort of cognitive jump-start for Francesca, and summon memories of a complicated adolescence; of men that have passed through her life (Kyle MacLachlan is tasked with playing them all); and of leaving her mother in Rome for a life in New York.
Director Luca Guadagnino
Francesca Julianne Moore
Young Sofia Mia Goth
Matteo/Bruno/Angelo Kyle MacLachlan
Sofia Marthe Keller
Vera Alba Rohrwacher
It’s an airily assembled plot that only teases at ideas that Guadagnino clearly wants to explore more robustly; but its nonlinear narrative affords the filmmaker the freedom to play with the intricacies of different eras, in a similar vein to Call Me By Your Name’s 1980s Lombardy setting and the 1970s Berlin of Suspiria. Having settled into an easy collaborative rhythm with cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, here shooting on 35mm, Guadagnino jumps between contemporary Manhattan and Rome during Francesca’s formative years, but maintains the same aesthetic: bleached out city landscapes and the impression that every surface in the frame has been coated with gossamer.
The ensemble of handsome cult actors, including If Beale Street Could Talk’s breakout star KiKi Layne, at times feel a little over-directed – particularly in the sprawling delivery of dialogue – but they get to flourish in a physical capacity, not least in the climactic, signature-Guadagnino dance scene.
The Staggering Girl stands as a promise of more to come for a director who’s quickly achieved international appeal. His ability to coax a handful of Hollywood names into couture for a standalone short shows the sway he has achieved as a filmmaker, as much as the film showcases the primary colours and billowing silhouettes of Valentino’s collection.