A winter day by the sea in Ostia, wind whips through the bushes. Laura Bispuri’s “The Peacock Paradise” begins with a classic starting point: a family is brought together at their mother’s apartment for a birthday party. A dozen family members gather and their conflicts at the dinner table.

Grandmother Nena (Dominique Sanda) teases her husband Umberto. On either side of the table: son Vito (Leonardo Lidi) with his partner Adelina (Alba Rohrwacher) and daughter Alma (Carolina Michelangeli), who are chronically broke; opposite daughter Caterina with her ex-husband Manfredi. The family knows as little about the separation of the two as they do about the fact that the woman who lives with her daughter with Nena and Umberto has been the grandmother’s lover for decades.

The screenplay that Bispuri wrote with Silvana Tamma adds two more pawns to this constellation: At Alma’s request, Vito and Adelina brought a peacock with them, which they keep as a pet. The bird fulfills its duties for the narrative structure in a single-minded manner. He wanders through the apartment and remains interested but a little helpless in front of the picture of a dove. The peacock then turns its head, briefly spreads its feathers and thus offers itself as an allegory for the pretense of intact facades at family reunions. He breaks a vase.

With this, the tensions in the family reach their first peak. “I don’t want to be the bad guy, but he’s causing trouble. Or do you have a different opinion?” Grandmother hisses at Vito and banishes the bird to the balcony. It will also be the peacock who brings the second ball into play: Manfredi’s new partner Joana, who is initially still waiting in the car. With it, the mixture of old and current conflicts is established, which keeps “The Peacock Paradise” moving like a mobile.

When Laura Bispuri’s debut feature film “Sworn Virgin” was screened in competition at the Berlinale in 2015, the film catapulted its director into the front row of young European filmmakers. The drama follows Hana as she grows up in the Albanian mountains and in adulthood begins life as Burrnesha, a sworn virgin. Hana becomes Mark. Mark wears men’s clothing and swears not to have sexual relations. Years later, Mark goes to Italy and rediscovers Hana.

How Bispuri interweaved the history of migration with questions of sexual identity was just as original as the look beyond the Italian production landscape. In 2018 followed “My Daughter – Figlia Mia” about a nine-year-old between her biological mother and the woman she is growing up with.

Bispuri works with a solid core of employees, including cameraman Vladan Radovic who has been there from the start. Carlotta Cristiani edited all three feature films, two of them together with Jacopo Quadri.

“Peacock Paradise” comes across as more conventional than Bispuri’s previous films. It starts with the setting of the family celebration. The bourgeois teasing and Nando Di Cosimo’s cello music make us fear the worst. But Bispuri keeps her film light. which has just as much to do with her sense of timing as with Alba Rohrwacher.

It is her third work with Bispuri, and Adelina is again one of Rohrwacher’s best roles. Adelina is fragile, religious and somewhat simple-minded. At first she seems unsure, wants to please her mother-in-law. She is helpless in the face of the tensions, but she has a good heart, and mostly she flees into silence. Her inner agitation forms the antithesis to the external family conflicts. Rohrwacher seamlessly switches between the facets of the character and gives her the necessary presence without any exaltation. Like a peacock, Bispuri’s film briefly spreads its feathers for the art house facade, only to then plunge unpretentiously, with its feathers laid, into the complexity of social relationships.