Valeria Golino’s film Miele was not only very well acted and nicely photographed, but also had an unusual plot and something interesting to say, dealing as it did with euthanasia and more specifically with the controversial issue of people who aren’t incurably sick or in pain, but want euthanasia simply because they’ve had enough of life. This film is subtle and intelligent enough not to ram it down the viewer’s throat, but (in my interpretation, at least) it gave a pro-euthanasia view of the issue and favoured the standpoint that euthanasia should be available to anyone who, after ample reflection, sincerely wants to die, rather than be reserved for those with a serious and incurable physical illness.

(details below)

Irene, the main character, is shown to be a sensitive, sympathetic and highly principled person who does her best to help people and generally makes a good job of it, while still remaining a human being with her faults and her doubts. Her ‘clients’ are shown to be people who’ve thought long enough about dying and have taken a definite, irreversible decision of their own free will, i.e. they’re ideal candidates for euthanasia, even if I had my doubts about the young guy who isn’t capable of communicating except via his mother: the way things looked in the film he wouldn’t have been capable of saying what he wanted, and anyone as strict about principles and rules as Irene would have refused to help him, but I assume the situation is better explained in the book.

The film does a good job of showing how ridiculous the whole situation is (in Italy, but it’s no better in most countries), where someone desperately needs help and the person who wants to help them has to work underground and act like a cross between a drug dealer and a contract killer, which is how the law would probably regard them if they were caught. I found it very strange that Irene had to keep flying to Los Angeles and getting a bus to Mexico in order to buy two doses of a drug used for putting down dogs: surely there are easier, cheaper and less conspicuous ways getting the necessary ingredients for a painless death? If this aspect was pure fantasy then it at least made the very relevant point that dogs are often treated better than humans at the end of their lives.

Important plot details might be revealed beyond this point…

What we learn of Carlo through his changing relationship with Irene, coupled with the fact that he eventually kills himself using a messier and more traditional method than the one she generally offers, makes it obvious that in spite of not appearing seriously depressed or in any way disturbed or deranged, he really has had enough of life and is determined to end it. He gives Irene back her drugs so that she won’t have his death on her conscience, but I for one was left wondering whether it wouldn’t have been better for all concerned if she’d been able to give him the help she reserves for sick people. She seems to have given up her work at the end of the film, but I’d like to think that if she hadn’t, she might act differently were she ever again to be presented with a case like Carlo. For the rest there was a lot in this film (her swimming sessions and her dealings with various men) which I didn’t find very relevant to anything at all, but I suppose it allowed us to get to know Irene a bit better. If the book on which the film is based wasn’t in Italian it would definitely go on my list of books to read…



title Miele
director Valeria Golino
released 2013
actors Jasmine Trinca, Carlo Cecchi
language Italiano
subtitles français
seen 06/02/2014, at the cinema
further information IMDb


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