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Daisy and Violet are twin sisters on the verge of turning 18. They are blessed with beautiful voices and are sought after to sing at weddings, communions and baptisms. Their real draw is another trait which cloaks them in fascinating charm: they are siamese twins. They support their family with their singing like a well oiled company/entertainment machine. This idyllic situation ends when a notable English doctor sees them at a first communion in Casertavecchia. He sentences them to the possibility of a normal life when he states, "I can separate you.".
Dasy and Viola (Angela and Marianna Fontana) are twin sisters on the verge of turning 18. They are blessed with beautiful voices and are sought after to sing at weddings, communions and baptisms. Their real draw is another trait which cloaks them in fascinating charm: they are conjoined twins.
Let us reflect for a moment on the broad history of conjoined twins in film. We have Tod Browning's "Freaks" (1932) and Harry Fraser's "Chained for Life" (1952), both starring the Hilton sisters (who, not coincidentally, have the names Violet and Daisy much like the girls in this movie). In both cases, the intent was to shock or to exploit. In 2003, we got the comedy "Stuck on You", which found this unfortunate birth defect something to be laughed at.
"Indivisible" is more bold than any of these. Rather than use the handicap to shock, exploit or poke fun, we get a very human set of twins, who are no different than you or me beyond that one thing (and we all have our unique features). Granted, the "conjoined" aspect here is relatively minor, and one has to wonder why they could not be separated at birth. But nitpick aside, we finally get to see two people who must share their lives without it being a spectacle.
The unusual factor in this story is not the twins themselves, but the way people around them see the girls as objects rather than people. There is an odd rejection by both their father and their priest (a very "cool" Gianfranco Gallo) when a doctor suggests that surgery is possible. We are left wondering at this point if their father truly loves them or merely sees them as income, a way to escape the crippling poverty of their community. The priest, likewise, strongly suggests people would not see the girls perform if they were separate... the crowd loves the gimmick, not their voices. We have to wonder: is he concerned about their success as performers, or his own connection to their success (they appear at his baptisms, weddings and first communions). No one seems to care about what the girls themselves think, want or feel. (One could argue this is a commentary on women in society, but this is likely unintentional.)
Perhaps most interesting of all is the fact the two girls see their own situation in different ways. One wants to live her own life, but the other is far too attached (no pun intended). The latter is hard to sympathize with, especially when we see what sort of romantic interludes can happen... physical encounters that leave one sister in the most awkward place possible. (Real-life conjoined twins have indeed had spouses and even children, so we can only imagine how this hurdle is overcome.)
Deborah Young with the Hollywood Reporter makes an interesting observation. She points out how the film takes place in the region around Naples, home of the camorra (a Mafia-like entity), and yet the first contains no violence (other than a tense scene on a yacht). When not watching film, my day job is writing books on organized crime, and yet this never occurred to me. A film can be set in Naples without the camorra, just as a film can be set in Sicily without the Mafia. Hopefully Italy is seen as more than just a criminal stereotype.
"Indivisible" is not your average film. Both heart-warming and heart-breaking, it ventures into the offbeat and unusual without ever becoming exploitation or B-movie material. While viewers are likely to sympathize with one sister over the other, we cannot help but see things from both sides. The film is currently playing in New York City and opens theatrically in Los Angeles September 29, 2017. A national release will follow at your finer theaters.
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