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Terraferma opens today at Landmark's Ken Cinema. Click for Showtimes.

Director Emanuele Crialese (Respiro, Golden Door) opens by elegantly casting a net over the audience -- we assume the fish’s point-of-view -- hoping to reel us into his thawed Frozen River. A household of sagging career fishermen, living on a paradisaical Sicilian island that doubles as a summer getaway for wealthy tourists, come face-to-face with a well-intentioned, message-laden script. The set-up and introduction of the characters showed promise. It's when the red flags start lapping the shore of the popular resort destination in the form of a raft of determined Ethiopian refugees that I began paying less attention to the screen and more to the DVD counter. Babies conceived in rape, illegal immigration, police brutality, parental mortality, teen angst, the importance of family values, and other various and sundry social dilemmas combine to choke the life out of every one of Crialese's handsomely arranged anamorphic frames. With Filippo Pucillo, Donatella Finocchiaro, and Mimmo Cuticchio.

Reader rating: One Star

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