Director Marco Tullio Giordana’s tale of love and redemption debuted at The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Istituto Luce Cinecittà’s 17th edition of “Open Roads: New Italian Cinema” taking place through June 7.
The film starts with a gritty army patrol in Afghanistan. The leader of the Italian patrol, Enzo (Dario Rea), is the turret gunner of the first armored vehicle in the column. Completely exposed to attack, he transmits status by radio in the terse, clipped language of war.
Tensing up, we see that even a peaceful patrol is dangerous. Enzo is forced to continually shout civilian vehicles out of the way. Not only must he look out after himself and his men, he is responsible for civilians too. Friend and foe intermix to make a kaleidoscope that fragments into unpredictable death traps weaving in and out of tedious boredom. The bomb that will end his life is hidden in the sprawling urban landscape around him.
Interspersed with these sequences are shots of a young “soldier” of another sort. Salvatore (Daniele Vicorito) is part of Naples’ violent Camorra. He is talking over his radio, too. Part of a caravan with “mother,” a large cross-country truck and trailer, he is also talking in code, but of a different sort. Hidden in the truck is the most dangerous cargo, a rich load of hard drugs. In a moment of crisis he rams his car into another, drawing police off their surveillance of the truck. The mission, and Salvatore, are saved, but only for the moment.
Just as the odds catch up with Enzo, the odds catch up with Salvatore. The troop leader is killed in a foreign war and Salvatore is seriously injured in Naples. He stumbles into a meeting with Maria (Angela Fontana) in the apartment her family has just bought for her and her husband to be. The new apartment furniture is draped with plastic and Salvatore lays on the plastic sheets, bleeding, just as the bleeding bodies of the war lay dead in their body bags.
Maria, grieving the death of her lover the day before, has a chance to save Salvatore. Her grief overcomes her sense of judgment. She saves his life but struggles with her own motivations. There is war in Afghanistan and there is war at home. Along with her we see that her place in both wars is not that of a savior, but of a victim. Even though she has the freedom to act by saving a life at home, that will not replace the life of her fiancé.
Considered the third installment of Marco Tullio Giordana’s organized crime cycle, after his Golden Globe-nominated “One Hundred Steps” and 2015’s “Lea,” this is not story of heroes, but of survivors. Maria’s world is one of working class poverty that provides the soldiers for wars at home and abroad. Her girl friend is married in a glittering ceremony complete with an ostentatious helicopter limo. But there is no glitter for Maria. Salvatore’s father, a former soldier in conventional war, bears the scars of those wars through tormented night after night. The son’s redemption lies in his caring for his father. Maria’s lies in her caring for Salvatore. But neither will stop the war and the senseless death. Only Maria has the power to choose the right path, but that path is not without pain.
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