With hints of some of the best coming-of-age stories, it’s hard to believe that Amanda (2022) is Carolina Cavalli’s feature directorial debut. It follows its titular character, Amanda, a 24-year-old girl who spends most of her time wandering around by herself. When her family moves back to her hometown, Amanda is forced by her mother to meet up with and hopefully become friends with Rebecca, an equally odd girl her age. Initially put off by the plan, Amanda learns that Rebecca was her best friend as a child and becomes convinced that if she reconnects with her, she'll finally become normal. At first glance, Amanda may seem too odd to be relatable, but with a hilarious and heartfelt script, her struggle becomes uncomfortably resonant. Her affluent resignation and quick wit remind you of Bud Cort in Harold & Maude or Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate but her modern sensibilities set her apart in this Italian portrait of the quarter-life crisis.

Benedetta Porcaroli: While much of the credit should rightfully be given to director and writer Carolina Cavalli for this beautifully complicated character study, it's fair to say that the entire movie would fall apart without an actress as skilled as Benedetta Porcaroli in the lead. Most international audiences will recognize Porcaroli for her role in Baby, the Italian Netflix teen drama in which she plays Chiara, a popular girl with a lot of secrets. Far from her TV roots, it’s hard to imagine Amanda being popular in any setting. At times, she appears like a lone cowboy antihero in a Western wandering aimlessly through the city. At other times, she seems like a scientist studying human behavior. Not only that, but she is incredibly manipulative, especially when it comes to her friendship with Rebecca. And yet, Porcaroli allows Amanda’s deadpan facade to crack just enough to see how vulnerable and insecure she really is. Even at her worst, Amanda never loses her humanity thanks to Porcaroli’s incredible presence.

Loneliness: However weird Amanda may seem, her struggle is definitely not alien. At the heart of this very hilarious movie is a meditation on modern loneliness. And like any good director, Cavalli doesn’t give us an answer to this problem but leaves us with many questions. Amanda’s loneliness is not simple, so there is not just one culprit. Is Amanda’s alienation a product of her youth? Surely, the fact that Amanda’s most meaningful interactions occur online is the root cause of her isolation. But to lay all the blame on one generation’s proclivities would be too easy. Cavalli’s world is filled with isolated adults. Maybe Amanda’s loneliness is hereditary. She comes from a long line of lonely women and even jokes that her mother only had children to cure her of this. It’s a problem whose source is mysterious, and its solution is vague but powerful. We’re not sure how Amanda will get completely cured, but it won’t be through male attention or by starting a family out of a sense of womanly duty. Behind the witty quips and seemingly cold characters is a female friendship that just might have what it takes to change Amanda and Rebecca.

With such interesting characters and a sneakily powerful plot, it’s easy to ignore some of the slow points in the movie. Thanks to Amanda, it’s clear that both Carolina Cavalli and Benedetta Porcaroli have long careers ahead of them.