Stromboli stars Dutch actress Elise Schaap in a story about one woman’s twisted and emotional journey toward healing. She leaves The Netherlands for a get away. She heads to the volcanic Italian island of Stromboli with a suitcase full of vodka and a plan to stay in the tiny cottage she rented and be drunk 100% of the time. It doesn’t work out that way.
Stromboli quickly demonstrates that being drunk isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sara (Elise Schaap) loses her bag with all her money and her phone, gets thrown out of her tiny cottage for starting a fire while trying to cook pasta, and has no where to go. She spends the night on a hard wooden pew in the church.
Jens (Christian Hillborg) finds her at the church and offers to help her. He invites her to come to his retreat, which promises a journey “From Fear to Love.” Jens and his partner Thandi (Neerja Naik) have almost mystical powers when it comes to understanding what trauma people feel and knowing how to help them work through it. She agrees to go with him.
Sara’s bag is returned by a villager. She uses her phone to try to communicate with her 14 year old daughter, who won’t talk with her.
The story is focused mainly on Sara’s issues, but there are secondary characters we get to know a bit along the way.
Harold (Tim McInnerny) is there with his love of cats and his fear of humans. Hans (Pieter Embrechts) has some trauma similar to Sara’s.
Violet (Taz Munyaneza) came prepared with a bra full of cocaine. Like Sara, she needed her own mind numbing chemicals. An English woman, Diane (Anna Chancellor), is there to work through some grief.
The people at the retreat get to know each other and support each other. They go through several kinds of exercises and activities designed to reveal their problems and help them heal. I’m not sure the methods used by Jens and Thandi are standard medical practice, but they worked for the movie.
In some ways the story was clearly hokey, especially the perfection Jens and Thandi embodied as healers. Sara’s willingness to stay in the retreat and do the work they wanted was surprising based on the way her character was introduced in the beginning.
Elise Schaap was excellent at showing her character’s troubled past and emotional journey.
The film was based on a novel by Saskia Noort with all women writers. Michiel van Erp directed. The dialog was a mix of Dutch, English, and Italian. You can see the film on Netflix.