An introverted village boy discovers another boy imprisoned in a hole in the ground, and goes on to find out why he is kept there...
The whodunit element of the storyline, adapted from the novel by Niccolò Ammaniti, provides the film with a backbone, but I think it is not its main attraction. Although the front of the dvd box screams at us: Secrets! Betrayal! Murder! and the summary on the back promises us a 'suspense thriller' about an 'unspeakable crime', this is no fare for those who insist on gore and adrenaline. Most of the unpleasantness is verbal or happens between the scenes we are shown. But this story doesn't need big shocks to keep you (or at least me) watching.
To me this is a beautiful, contemplative film about how normal people may behave in the face of a crime they can't choose to overlook. You can't really tell what the characters will say or decide next, how they will react to the other characters' actions. You care for the people and you want them to make the 'right' choices - but you don't always know which option is morally preferable.
The child actors are absolutely brilliant... they are never too cutesy, and in fact you can never catch them acting. Both the children and the established adult actors are completely natural and convincing 'real people'. The dialogues are very well written, but the actors seem to be even better when they have no lines. Melodramatic outbursts are carefully avoided, as are easy conclusions about who's bad and who's good.
All this is set in a countryside that looks endless but is claustrophobic at the same time, and backed by a soundtrack that knows its place. In short: a pleasure to watch. In spite of the subject matter it won't depress you.
I have no complaints about sound and image quality, but I was a bit disappointed that the extras found on the Italian edition (making-of, director's commentary, gallery, trailer) are entirely absent from this version.