[IFF ’11] A Quiet Life (Una Vita Tranquilla)

It is always a pleasure to watch a film where you have no idea what is about. Before I sat down to watch this film I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t read any loglines or plot summaries for it. I pretty much went in blind. All I knew about it was that it was simply called A QUIET LIFE. With a title like that could be about anything. Although, I did have hunch that it was most likely a crime film. As I started watching it, my prediction ended up being correct. But what I didn’t expect was just how much of a really effective, intense and engaging crime film it ended up being. So what was it about?

The film tells the story of Rosario Russo (Toni Servillo), a middle aged Italian man who runs a successful motel/restaurant in a small town in Germany with his wife German Renate (Juliane Kohler) and young son Mathias (Leonardo Sprengler). Despite living a really good life, Rosario has a past that he has kept secret for many years. 15 years earlier he faked his own death and changed his identity so that he could escape from the life of crime that he was living in with the mafia in Italy. One day two young Italian men named Diego (Marco D’Amore), who has a link to Rosario’s past, and Edoardo (Francesco Di Leva) show up at his restaurant. Diego tells Rosario that he and his friend are in town for a few days to do some “business” and they thought that they could stay at his motel until it is done. Rosario agrees and spends the next few days getting to know the young men, especially Diego. Later on while they are spending some time together, Diego receives a phone call saying his “business meeting” has been moved up and tells Rosario that he has to go. Rosario finds this a little suspicious, so he decides to follow Diego and Edoardo to see what they are up to. When he discovers what they are actually in town for, he realises that it looks like his past has finally caught up with him.

I could go on with more details of the plot, but personally I believe that revealing any more of the story would ruin the experience. So in other words, it’s one of those films that it is best not to know too much about it going in. But what I will say is that this superbly handled and highly compelling film. Co-writer/director Claudio Cupellini does a great job at crafting a crime/drama that is both richly complex and multi-layered. What I loved about the film is that it is really more of story of regret, resentment and even family (there is another theme that the film explores that I also found to be the most compelling but revealing what it is would venture into spoiler territory. However I will say that this particular theme I found to be most effective). Cupellini’s direction is superbly done and the script is extremely well written and tight constructed. Also the ending was absolutely powerful, to me it was the perfect way to end the film and it stays with you after you have a watched it. It might be the best ending I’ve seen in a film so far this year.

The performances from the cast are all very strong but the two stand-out performances for me were both Toni Servillo and Marco D’Amore. Servillo gives an absolutely great performance as Rosario, he brings so many compelling elements to the character that you can’t take your eyes off the screen when he is on. D’Amore is also very good as Diego, his scenes with Servillo were both terrific and engaging (especially towards the end of the film). The supporting cast all do a very a solid job with their turns as well (Francesco Di Leva stood-out as the charismatic and sociopathic Edoardo).

In terms of negatives, I have to admit I don’t really have many with this film. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fault or two here and there. While I thought that Juliane Kohler was fine as Rosario’s wife Renate, but I felt that her character wasn’t written all that well. She just came off a two-dimensional naggy wife (actually come to think of it, pretty much all the female characters in the film weren’t all really that well written) and there was one scene towards the end of the film, which I won’t spoil, that would have been a very powerful scene but the way that it was handled felt too rushed and it loss most of the emotional impact that it would have had.

Overall A QUIET LIFE was absolutely a big surprise for me and a truly terrific film. Like I said before I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, so that it is probably why it had such an impact on me. It is a film that I would definitely recommend everyone to check out. It’s without a doubt one of 2011’s best films.

Rating:

– Bede Jermyn

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