Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Yara’ On Netflix, A Chilling Italian Crime Drama Based On A True
A little over 10 years ago, 13-year-old Yara Gambirasio went missing on her way home from the gym. Three months later, her body was found, and the mystery of her disappearance and brutal murder captivated Italy. Italian crime drama Yara, now streaming on Netflix, tells the tragic story of Yara and the determined detective who was willing to do whatever it took to bring her killer to justice.
YARA: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: A man flies a model airplane over empty fields. A woman boxes elsewhere. After his plane crashes, he drives to retrieve it, only to make a horrifying discovery: the decomposing body of a young girl. The woman gets the phone call she’s been fearing for. She is Chief Investigator Letizia Ruggeri (Isabella Ragonese), and she’s been searching for 13-year-old Yara Gambirasio since she went missing walking home from the gym 3 months ago. Through flashbacks that begin when Yara was abducted and continue through Ruggeri’s investigation, we learn just how deeply this case shook Italy and the lengths Ruggeri was willing to go to in order to discover the truth.
Ruggeri’s relationship with her own daughter becomes strained due to her obsession with the case, but she’s never able to give it up, especially after forming a connection with Yara’s parents. As the police try to find out who killed Yara, Ruggeri begins building a DNA database to try to find the perpetrator. It’s a complicated process, one that takes years of frustrating dead ends and the development of scientific technology. They may never get all the answers they want, but in the end, justice may very well be served.
Performance Worth Watching: The film really belongs to Isabella Ragonese. Without her, Yara simply doesn’t work. Ragonese breathes life into what some might see as the classic obsessed detective role, but she also seems to honor the real woman she is playing. She’s the perfect guide through this harrowing case, taking us along for the ride as she chases down every lead and commits to unearthing the truth, even at the expense of her own wellbeing. She’s an understated performer, doing much of the work with her eyes and physicality rather than digging deep into any monologues or dramatic exchanges. She effortlessly moves from the film’s opening mystery and into its courtroom drama portion, making the film feel cohesive and coherent where it otherwise might be a little bumpy.
Memorable Dialogue: Some of the film’s most memorable dialogue comes from entries in Yara’s diary that are read to us in flashbacks. “Life is a twist of events in a theater full of surprises,” she writes, as she contemplates her feelings for a classmate and her own growth.
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Clocking in at a lean 96 minutes, Yara wastes no time indulging in exhausting exposition or sappy attempts to get us to fall in love with our victim. I was worried Yara might go the exploitative route, taking this tragic true story and hamming it up, but there is such an obvious respect for all the real life individuals involved here. Thanks to extremely competent direction and moving performances, even those of us unfamiliar to the case are able to understand just how significant this tragedy was in Italy, and why it gripped the nation. So often in crime films do we see the detectives crack the case in a matter of days (even those based-on-a-true-story flicks), but here, we witness just how painstaking and slow this kind of work can be. Much like the decades it took to catch the Golden State Killer with DNA evidence, Yara’s case took years of dedication and data collection. It might not sound like it makes for good cinema, but Yara turns it into effective slow burn drama (even with its concise runtime).
Part murder mystery and courtroom drama, Yara manages to juggle some distinct components without ever feeling rushed or cheap. We get all the weight of the interpersonal drama for Letizia and Yara’s family, the chills of what actually happened to Yara, and the high stakes that come with finally bringing her killer to justice in a courtroom. Yara takes a tonally solemn approach to its story as a whole, and this – bleak as it is – is what makes the film so effective from its very first scene. The film does a surprisingly good job honoring the real life individuals involved and creating compelling drama, proving that you don’t have to exploit your subjects to make something entertaining. Yara may not be the most uplifting of crime dramas, but true stories like this rarely offer the happy ending we’re all looking for.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Yara is a wholly effective crime drama, combining a chilling mystery with the emotional journey of our relentless investigator. It’s bound to please thriller fans and true crime junkies alike.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines, hogging the mic at karaoke, and thirst-tweeting. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.