A story of the painful passage into adulthood from director Giuseppe Tornatore ('Cinema Paradiso'). The year is 1940, and in the sleepy Sicilian town of Castelucto teenager Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro) has developed a crush on the the beautiful and mysterious Malena (Monica Bellucci). Malena's husband Nino, who has been away fighting in the war, has now been reported dead, and the women of the town have taken to spreading malicious gossip about this woman who never fails to turn their husbands' heads. But as the gossip spreads, and the town fills with half-truths and false rumours, there is only one person who knows the truth, and that is young Renato.
When 12-year-old Renato, riding through his small Italian town on his new bicycle, sees the voluptuous Malèna, little does he know he's beginning an infatuation that will carry him through the tumultuous days of World War II. Malèna
begins as an enraptured depiction of Renato's adolescent mind--chronicling the way he stares, hypnotised, at Malèna's garters pressing through the material of her tight skirt, or his frustrated rebellion against the indignity of wearing short pants--but soon transforms into a portrait of small-town prejudice. Malèna's looks spark lust and envy in the townspeople; when her husband dies in combat, the gossip only intensifies, to the point where Malèna is dragged into court to defend herself against accusations of adultery. When the women of the town refuse to sell her edible food at the market, Malèna has little choice but to become what she's been unjustly accused of being. At the end, a twist of fate turns this tale of longing and jealousy into a heartbreaking love story. Monica Bellucci exudes the can't-help-it eroticism that makes Malèna such a lightning rod for everyone's desires with a beauty reminiscent of Isabelle Adjani. The movie seems to wander at times, but the ending has a powerful emotional impact. From the director of Cinema Paradiso
.--Bret Fetzer, Amazon.com