Cynical Italian businessmen Gino (Lo Verso) and Fiore (Placido) are setting up a phony corporation in Albania and need a nominal chairman — literally anyone will do. They arbitrarily select Spiro (Carmelo di Mazzarelli), an elderly man who has been interned in a Communist labor camp for 50 years. But when the addled old fellow disappears, Gino trudges into the horrific and perilous countryside in search of him, on a journey that will forever transform him.
Made at the height of the Albanian refugee crisis, Amelio's absorbing drama is a nightmarish vision of poverty, conflict, and despair in post-Communist Europe's most isolated nation. As Gino is systematically stripped of every luxury item and form of identification he possesses by the ruthless people he encounters, the irony of his situation becomes crystal clear, especially when brash exploiter-turned-weary refugee Gino (Lo Verso in an exquisite, haunting performance) joins a wave of migrants hoping to sneak across the border to the West — and a better life. Visually striking and genuinely moving, Lamerica is an unforgettable look at a land devastated by dictatorial politics and world neglect, and those desperate to leave.