Is Italian cinema dead?
Not by a long shot. Yes, current Italian filmmakers have been facing this incredible challenge of reinventing Italian cinema in the face of its grand history. No matter how you slice it, it could definitely be tough surpassing the Fellinis or the De Sicas of the world. Yet, different times with different audiences call for fresh new perspectives and new cinematic ideas.
And that’s exactly why this film by Gabriele Muccino, is such a great delight. It opens a fresh new window to what modern Italy looks like today. In the center of this film is the story of a normal, yet dysfunctional family where the fast pace of modern life erodes the natural family ties. Carlo, the husband (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) is experiencing a midlife crisis, finds his job boring and slowly digresses to reignite an old flame, played beautifully by Monica Bellucci.
If Carlo functions on a slow always-brooding wavelength, Giulia, his wife (Laura Morante) is a ball of fire, always in a hurry, works as a teacher, but thinks her true calling is acting, tries it but always self-doubting herself.
Their kids Valentina (Nicoletta Romanoff), the ultimate teen who is always self-absorbed, (practically glued to her mirror) and on a mission to get into showbiz no matter what it takes. Paolo (Silvio Muccino, the director’s real-life brother), her brother, is a confused adolescent that feels like the family loser.
When you tie all these characters together, it seems like they have become so much apart of each other, each gliding in his own orbit as if they’re merely strangers renting rooms in the same apartment. In this sense, the director does an excellent job of creating a sense of alienation and discontent.
The plot moves briskly and at times it almost feels like switching TV channels; you start with multiple stories revolving around each character and then keep moving from one story development to the next until a unified development point brings all these sub-plots to conclusion.
The film provides an excellent capture of the dreams, pitfalls and successes of a liberal, middle-class family that always needs to renegotiate its reason for existence. Superb!