Melissa P. (2005)

2.5 out of 5

Larry Clarke's Kids showed a depressing, totally unerotic picture of teenage sexual activity. Low on romance and respect, but high on degradation and squalor. Luca Guadagnino's Spanish-Italian production covers similar ground, but with a slightly glossier sheen. The titular Melissa is a shy, inexperienced teenager who, after several grubby sexual fumbles, becomes a precocious Gloria Guida type.

The transformation from virgin to whore is not entirely convincing, but Guadagnino gives the film an air of acute unhappiness that the desperate sex cannot dissipate a jot. Although of legal age at the time, star Maria Valverde looks authentically jailbait like in a series of eyebrow raising scenes, especially the sequence set during a P.E. lesson. Veteran actress Geraldine Chaplin gives a strong performance as Melissa's grandmother, the only person who truly understands the troubled young girl. When granny is retired off to a rest home, Melissa's situation rapidly degenerates.

Not a classic by any means, but a jolting opening scene, youthful cast and nicely downcast cinematography provide an interesting contrast to the usual teenage sexual high jinks.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics