Jumping From High Places  Netflix Review – An Uninspiring Fleabag-esque Coming-of-age Tale About Tackling Crippling Anxiety
Netflix’s newly released Italian romantic comedy Jumping From High Places is a flimsy and lighthearted film about overcoming debilitating anxiety and the need to conquer your fears to unleash your true potential. Directed by Andrea Jublin and written by Alice Urciuolo, the film is based on Chiara Parenti’s 2018 Italian novel of the same name. Originally titled Per Lanciarsi Dalle Stelle, it tells the story of Sole Santoro, the almost 25-year-old petite young woman diagnosed with severe anxiety that causes an extreme fear about everyday situations. Set in the heel of Italy’s boot, the beautiful Apulia region, the most idyllic of places, the film portrays how Sole reluctantly and apprehensively embarks on a journey of self-discovery, after her best friend’s death, by going out of her comfort zone to overcome her greatest fears and to live life to the fullest.
Sole Santoro (Federica Torchetti) is afraid of her own shadow, as she has been plagued by generalized anxiety disorder since childhood. She is petrified of her neighbor’s dog, finding a job, getting on a plane, sharing her art, and even choosing a flavor of ice cream. When the film commences, the fresh-faced waif tells her own story with a direct address approach and fleabagesque glances at the camera. Breaking the fourth wall, she describes her monotonous and humdrum existence against the backdrop of the stunning city where she finds her therapist Dr. Basile’s questions quite hassling and her parents’ overindulgence in her life frustrating.
This paralyzing fear is mixed with grief for the loss of her best friend and confidante, Emma, who helped her cope with the crippling anxiety. Emma had found the love of her life Xavier and had moved to Paris. However, Emma died tragically in a car accident. When Emma’s brother and Sole’s crush Massimo (Lorenzo Richelmy) returns to town, he delivers a long-overdue letter left by Emma to Sole before her accident; the letter accentuates her rethink of her trapped life of loneliness dictated by her excessive anxiety. She makes a bucket list of things in an impulse to honor her deceased friend and makes up her mind to start conquering her demons one by one – roller coaster rides, ear piercings, boat rides, art classes, bike rides, catching a flight, and even finding love. Will she succeed in discovering herself and overcoming her phobias by committing herself to such daunting tasks?
The recurrent habit of Sole addressing the audience directly to share her point of view, acknowledging the audience’s existence, falls flat as it breaks the flow of the narrative. The similarities that can be drawn from Phoebe Waller-Bridge helmer Fleabag are endless, which makes this poor refashioning drudging and commonplace. Pretty much like Fleabag, the protagonist Sole is also a woman talking directly to the camera, coping with the death of her best friend, fighting anxiety and panic attacks, and whirling and navigating through life’s challenges. However, the endless exposition and never-ending backstory through flashbacks make it tedious and dull rather than suspenseful and revealing.
The film is nothing but an inferior re-envisioning of Fleabag with a mental disorder angle that seems to push the narrative forward. It is a formulaic and disingenuous narrative with a simple premise that is too corny and mawkish for some audiences because it evokes a sense of familiarity that is already out there in infinite narratives. With a runtime of about 1 hour and 28 minutes, it offers a little to ponder, sometimes sentimental and at other times dramatic and unrealistic. The back and forth between the past and present is too often to maintain that it is hard to maintain a connection with certain characters.
More than a rom-com, it is a coming-of-age story of Sole as it fails to sustain reliable and believable chemistry between the couples in question. It follows the development of Sole from a scaredy-cat to someone who is ready to make an effort to face her arduous fears with the support of her girlfriends. The passion and liveliness of the film come from Sole’s bevy of friends, Miriam, Giulia, Marta, and Danio, who are easygoing, patient open-minded, and non-judgmental. The film sometimes passes the Bechdel test as they discuss her romantic life and support her emotionally and socially by being present and helping her move forward. A scene that resonated with me is when Miriam opens up about her struggles with alopecia and asks Sole to shave her head. She participates in a beauty contest, accepting and believing in herself.
The film’s representation of anxiety disorder is accurate as it depicts the pains of dealing with anxiety daily, struggling to perform basic necessities in social life. The nasty customers on the first day of her job and her imagining of the students at the art class mocking her, give an acute and bitter picture of anxiety disorder. However, the way in which she goes through certain tasks on her wish list, despite her supportive friends, seems implausible and unbelievable for someone with crippling anxiety. For someone who finds the smallest gesture to be an immense task, she goes through it cheerfully. Maybe, the reminder from her friends and therapist that healing processes are not linear and that failure is temporary helped her to move ahead with it.
Jumping From High Places is a bildungsroman that focuses on the development of Sole from a person inflicted with an anxiety disorder strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities to someone who acquires the courage to look beyond the fear to live her dreams. The film mostly suffers from its bad screenplay, overused point-of-view narration, and lack of action across the runtime. Those who are looking for something sweet, charming, and light to pass your time, go for it, as it may be palatable to you. In addition, you will also get a free virtual tour through the beautiful Italian city of Puglia.