If Padre Padrone's foundational sentiment seems a little hoary, the Tavianis counter it with an opening that justifies the film's later developments, as an adult Gavino, who in voiceover claims to be a real-life figure, enters the frame, and hands a walking cane, which doubles as a baton, to his “father,” who's at the school to retrieve the young Gavino. The instance challenges the film's own construction of realistic space since, from its start, events unfold through an impossible chronology.
Its sense of loneliness is frighteningly profound, while its simple, straightforward style depends on a shrewd choice of telling, sometimes surreal detail.
One of a kind, the movie has an archaic, almost mythological, feel that’s enhanced by its use of elemental Sardinian locations under the blazing Mediterranean sun. A departure in style, it introduced the magic neorealism the Tavianis would develop further in “Night of the Shooting Stars.”