The Red Pumps
Of violation “of a woman without outrage, . . . man’s criminal selfishness without condemning,” the puzzlingly titled Don”t Move/Non ti muovere aims to straddle a thin line of life’s misery and beauty, aching aloneness and shared love, retribution and reward, and in its finally clichéd balanced neatness it fails. Adapted from Margaret Mazzantini’s 2002 novel by the novelist and her director husband Sergio Castellitto, the film would seek a Last Tango moral density in protagonists seen from above, trapped in loneliness, pitiful, betrayed by fate . . . and yet rising above the human condition and winking acknowledgement heavenwards.
Amour fou, this, but, during and after agony, too rounded out, parallel-storied, and miscast.
Fathers and sons, daughters and fathers, and torrential downpour, overlay much of what occurs, set and kept in motion by repeated chance encounters. Fast fat raindrops fall from high above on a motorbike accident, as the helmetless young victim is ambulanced to an emergency room at the same Rome hospital where her father is a surgeon. Angela’s (Elena Perino) head is shaved and she is prepped, while distraught Timoteo, “Timo” (director Sergio Castellitto), calls his wife to return from London and entrusts the delicate operation to Alfredo (Pietro de Silva) and, among others, that doctor’s sometimes estranged wife, nurse Ada (Angela Finocchiaro).
Through falling water, from a window his mind sees a slender short-haired woman in black. Her face hidden as she sits, red pumps and a multi-colored patchwork bag draw him into flashback, and he is younger, though already married, and his Volvo SW has conked out. Looking for mechanic Mario at a roadside bar, he winds up using the home telephone of a tawdry gypsy-ish woman there. Gap-toothed, shadow-eyed half-Albanian Italia (Penélope Cruz) lives in a sparse, neat apartment in her dead grandfather’s crumbling building amidst new flats going up, and she barely stops popping her chewing gum when Timoteo straightens a crucifix and forces himself on her.
The Spanish actress is all wrong, impossibly too blatant in the attempt to act common with a good heart. But the well-off doctor is hooked and invents stories to tell sophisticated blonde wife Elsa (Claudia Gerini) so that he can keep coming back to the dark-haired younger woman who opens to him. The wife vaguely suspects something but will even remove her IUD to have a child for him, while Italia likely knows little of contraception. Gynecologist work companion Manlio (Marco Giallini) is Angela’s godfather and a skirt-chaser whose wife leaves him with “next time fall in love for real,” kids but is serious about sleeping with Elsa, and generally discomfits Timoteo with sex banter.
Switching back and forth between the “now” surgery and the past’s developing relationship with Italia -- a garish sore thumb at medical-conference soirées but a blooming revelation in the boudoir -- the film builds along the hero’s not unexpected early midlife crisis. His surface existence seems enviable, but he must choose between that and the earth-life of poor villages with a different kind of love, between father-responsibility and a youth that will fade. The decision, however, may be out of a man’s hands, and that which does happen may be for a theoretically affirmative best. So dilemmas are resolved onscreen if not in life, and, in the moment that all converges, an ordinary man smiles at the blessing of closure.
What, if anything has been achieved, however, is beyond this ill-conceived movie.
(Released by Northern Arts Entertainment/Unified Pictures; not rated by MPAA.)