Published Apr 01, 2005Director/star Sergio Castellitto indulges himself shamelessly in this ludicrous soap opera where he plays a married surgeon named Timoteo, who has a torrid affair with lower-class urchin Italia (Penelope Cruz) shortly after he rapes her.
I know, it's hard to resist a come-on like that, but Timo is the kind of sensitive cad to make hearts flutter and critics' eyes roll. He's just so sensitive as he gets her pregnant, fails to inform his absurdly elegant wife (Claudia Gerini) and generally weasels out of doing the right thing at the right time. But she loves him, and brazenly so, to the point where her spirit stands guard as the good doctor's injured daughter endures emergency surgery in the film's ridiculous wraparound device.
That it's her spirit and not her person should tell you how wussy and bourgeois the film is it's condescending enough to look on poor Italia as a pitiable wretch but not willing to let it muss up the comfortable life of the stupendously self-centred lead. The script is so classically melodramatic that it suggests we haven't come very far since the days of Lillian Gish, and for all of Castellitto's ostentatiously fluid camera movements, the technique is just as ancient and manipulative.
Cruz is the one bright spot, fearlessly throwing herself into her role despite the obvious "beautiful actress gets ugly" gambit; she's serious about giving her character dignity and she raises her above the merely pathetic creature of the script to someone genuinely and painfully wronged. She's the only honest thing about a mealy-mouthed and self-deluded enterprise, and she calls the movie's bluff through sheer force of craft. Otherwise, the title is all too apt for a film that goes absolutely nowhere. (Seville)