Malèna (Monica Bellucci) is the most ravishing and irresistible beauty in Castelcuto, a sleepy village on the sunny Sicilian shore. She's new in town and with her husband away at war, every stroll she takes through town turns into a spectacle, accompanied by the lustful looks of the townsmen and the resentful gossip of their envious wives. An army of skinny teens on bicycles follows her everywhere just to stare at her exquisite, archetypal beauty. But among those boys is Renato Amoroso (Giuseppe Sulfaro), an imaginative 13-year-old who takes his desire to unexpected heights of obsessive fantasy. Fuelled by his dreams of cinematic romance, Renato Amoroso becomes Malèna's secret shadow, a spy of love following closely her every sensuous move.

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Malena, Monica Bellucci, is the object of desire for thirteen year old Renato, Guiseppe Suffaro. The year is 1940 and the war is starting to gear up under Mussolini and his blackshirts. Malena`s husband is away fighting, but as she walks through the square of the seaside town in Sicily the men`s tongues dangle and the women`s sharpen. The lust in the air becomes palpable when her husband is reported missing. And then her father dies. She has no male protectors left, and no money. Renato is the only one to have faith in her. Tornatore has a reputation for sentimentalising in his films and Malena is no different. He presents us with a lush, beautiful-looking widescreen film shot by Lajos Koltai, fabulously designed, but with very little access to the characters in it. Malena is truly just an object of desire for us the audience, and we just watch Renato watching her. It seems that an opportunity has been lost here and all we have is the surface of things. Other characters in the town are usually grotesques. As a contemplation of the lot of a beautiful woman in difficult times it`s a pretty empty vessel. Comments from David Stratton This is almost a parody of an Italian film, in which most of the characters are presented as caricatures - only Malena and the boy are allowed to behave at all naturally. Though beautifully photographed by Lajos Koltai, the film is overwrought, overcooked and frequently downright embarrassing.