Don't Move

on March 11, 2005 by Mark Keizer
In Sergio Castellitto's challenging and well-acted "Don't Move," two troubled souls find love and hope across the farthest reaches of class division. The film, a hit in its native Italy where it took home the Best Actor and Best Actress trophies at the prestigious David de Donatello Awards, is being positioned stateside as Oscar bait for top-billed Penelope Cruz. Indeed, celebrity rags will surely gorge at the trough of her transformation from Spanish cover goddess to destitute Albanian rape victim. And it surely is the best performance of her career. She disappears completely and leaves none of the "look-at-me-disappear" residue of Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning performance in "Monster."

The film, based on the novel by Castellitto's wife, Margaret Mazzantini, begins with a great overhead shot of a traffic accident involving a young girl on a motorbike. After being rushed to the local hospital, the girl is identified as the daughter of Timo, a resident surgeon (Castellitto). As his daughter undergoes emergency brain surgery, he waits trembling in the hallway. Staring out the hospital window triggers vivid memories of his extramarital affair with another woman who faced tragedy.

In extended flashback, we learn that the other woman is Italia (Cruz), a poverty-stricken Albanian whom Timo met when his car broke down in a desolate part of town. Italia took Timo home to call a mechanic, which led him to take her by force. For Timo, whose father abandoned him as a child and whose current wife (Claudia Gerini) doesn't want children, the act seems desperate: less than rape, but not quite consensual.

Timo continues to visit Italia's rundown cottage, and before long their sex turns to lovemaking. Italia has a tortured past and while she may see escape in Timo, she really sees vindication--proof that someone, somewhere can love her. Soon they become the passion of each other's lives, even if they're constantly swimming against the tide. Their worlds are too different and Timo won't leave his wife.

Timo's actions can be interpreted as fairly abhorrent, but Castellitto refuses to condemn him. Italia, who ultimately must suffer for her lover's sins, realistically plays out her role as Madonna/whore in a tale with Roman Catholic overtones.

Castellitto successfully works both sides of the camera. As an actor he has a sympathetic, sad face--one that he used to great effect in the 2002 drama "My Mother's Smile." He and Cruz are completely believable together. Behind the camera, he's practically a revelation. Using fast moves and creative camera placement usually associated with younger hotshots, Castellitto (helped enormously by editor Patrizio Marone) is able to take the increasingly melodramatic goings-on seriously, without lapsing into soap opera hysterics. His sensitivity is key to the film's success.

Italian locations range from dilapidated housing complexes to luscious seaside villas. The only behind-the-scenes contribution needing improvement is Lucio Godoy's score, which fails to get underneath the narrative.

"Don't Move's" complex themes and foreign origin are unlikely to motivate Cruz's major U.S. fanbase, namely US Magazine subscribers. However, discriminating audiences will enjoy this sensitive, mature and interesting film featuring a terrific central performance. Starring Penelope Cruz, Sergio Castellitto and Claudia Gerini. Directed by Sergio Castellitto. Written by Margaret Mazzantini and Sergio Castellitto. A Northern Arts release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 124 min

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