Directed by Sergio Castellitto. Starring Sergio Castellitto, Penélope Cruz, Claudia Gerini, Elena Perino. (2004, NR, 125 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 3, 2005
Based on the novel Non Ti Muovere by the director and co-star’s wife Margaret Mazzantini, this cloyingly melodramatic film makes you fear for Mr. Castellitto’s homelife. While the acting and direction are fine, even flawless at times, the overarching story of a surgeon who falls both in love and from grace – almost – flirts often enough with the emotionally florid and self-pitying mindset of the slumming elite that it becomes something of an apology for bourgeois classism. Then again, maybe it’s just the Italian version of those Mexican telenovelas that used to clutter up Univision on weekday afternoons. Castellitto plays Timoteo, a Rome-based surgeon who would appear to have it all, including but not limited to the opulent beach house, radiant and intelligent spouse (Gerini), and vivacious teenage daughter (Perino). However, while traveling through the desolate and decidedly low-rent countryside one day, his car breaks down, which leads him to begin an affair with local waif Italia (Cruz). It’s indicative of how trapped and denuded Timoteo must feel in his perfect life when he initiates the first volley of what will be seemingly countless scenes of lovemaking that begin as rape. (It also says plenty about the destitute, trashy Italia that she falls hard for this creepy guy, eventually begging him to come back for rough sex anytime.) Nevertheless, the affair progresses with all the subtlety of a below-the-bleachers gangbang, ensnaring both Timoteo and the symbolically named Italia in the sort of mad love that so often used to torture Fellini’s characters. In the end, Italia even trades in her long, frosted locks for a Giulietta Masina-meets-Rosemary’s Baby coif that does no one any favors. Don’t Move opens with a powerful shot of a rainswept traffic accident seen from on high. The victim here is Timoteo’s daughter, Angela, and the story of his conflicted love for Italia unfolds in flashbacks while he stands outside the operating room awaiting news of her touch-and-go condition. With his drooping, puffy eyelids that seem tailor-made for either the bedroom or the butchery, he comes off as an intensely self-pitying lothario, eventually reformed perhaps, but never completely in control of his emotions. (He resembles a thinner Serge Gainsbourg and acts like one, too.) Prone to crying jags and sudden, unpredictable outbursts of rage, this complex, psychically needful man is both emotionally epic and blatantly petty. When what begins as an alcohol-fueled act of sexual violence finally blossoms into an altogether thornier flower of romance, Don’t Move borders on the Sirkian. Its moralistic profundities are less coherent than those of, say, All That Heaven Allows, but the film’s steadily mounting melodramatics rival even the most histrionic of Sirk’s tangled hearts. Don’t Move is saved from outright awfulness by the performances of its two leads; Castellitto’s hemophobic surgeon is rivetingly conflicted, and Cruz, bravely essaying a borderline madwoman in broad, bold strokes, is never less than intense. Together they prove once again that love makes fools of us all, and psychotics of some.