8 December 2013 | paul-allaer
Outstanding bio-pic of the young Rocco Grenata
"Marina" (2013 release from Belgium; 120 min.) is a bio-pic on the early years of Belgian singer Rocco Grenata. The movie looks at his earliest days, growing up in Italy and eventually moving to Belgium in the 1950s with his family (his dad took a job as a "guest worker" in the coal mines of Limburg). Young Rocco became fixated on playing the accordion and singing, all against the wishes of his stern dad. The movie concludes when young Rocco finally achieves a breakthrough with his song "Marina", which originally was the B side of his first single.
Several comments: this is a Flemish movie directed by Stijn Coninx, best known for the (Oscar-nominated) bio-pic "Daens" in the 1990s. I mention "Flemish" (instead of Belgian), because the movie indeed is set in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking, northern part of Belgium. Coninx does an excellent job bring the 1950s to life with vivid details, and if you grew up in Belgium (like I did), this will feel very authentic. The issue of the so-called "guest workers" was then (and still is now) a thorny and emotional issue. Rampant discrimination against guest workers took place and the movie does not duck that part of the story, on the contrary.
Apart from the story itself of how young Rocco Grenata made it, the acting performances in the movie are nothing short of stellar, none more so than Mateo Simoni in the role of Rocco, as well as Evelien Bosmans as his on-again, off-again girlfriend Helena. She is one of the very best acting talents to come out of Belgium in a long time, and surely we have not seen the last of her.
Bottom line: I was floored and surprised (but in the best possible way) how good this movie was. "Marina" has been a runaway box office smash in Belgium (or certainly in Flanders). I saw the movie during a recent family visit to Belgium, and even though this has been playing for weeks already and I went to see in on a week day matinée, the theatre I saw this at was absolutely packed. The audience gave a spontaneous applause at the end of the movie, just to give you an idea how well this movie has been received. If you have a chance to see this, by all means do not miss it! "Marina" is HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!