At the center of Lazzaro Felice (2018), by Italy’s Alice Rohrwacher, is a saintly though ignorant young man called Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo). Forced by a female tobacco business owner into so much indebtedness that no salary is possible, he and a large group of workers are mere slaves until the operation is shut down.

With the rotten U.S. title of Happy as Lazzaro, the film is, I think, meant to be mythopoeic. Rohrwacher has invented a modern myth that points up goodness (and naivete) over against evil in human history. Alas, she doesn’t really know where to take this myth, for the final scene is pedestrian, weak. Prior to it, however, what we see is engrossing—a quiet marvel with miracle realism, if you will.

Available on Netflix.

(In Italian with English subtitles)