One of the Italian films at this year’s Denver International Film Festival is Other People’s Life, an uninspired drama about a friendship between a “retired” mafioso and a pretty young volcanologist who sets up sensing equipment in his villa.
Can’t We Be Friends?
Mariano (Renato Carpentieri) is supposed to be retired, but business keeps coming up. His replacements want to include him in some of their plans, but Mariano just wants out. He doesn’t repent his life of crimes — he doesn’t want to atone or apologize — he just wants to no longer be involved. But with the Mafia, getting out is a difficult, potentially deadly, proposition.
As Luisa (Maria Teresa Saponangelo) sets up her equipment at Mariano’s villa, she overhears some of his business. She knows he must be big in organized crime, and yet she shows no fear around him. If anything, she feels pity for a man who is one of the loneliest she’s ever met.
This mix of crime and sympathy is a good premise, but the execution is cut-rate amateur. The characters are not well-drawn. Aside from the two leads, everyone is an archetype — a henchman, a tough, a crooked politician, a lecherous colleague. Even Luisa is hard to believe. Her easy good looks and high-end casual attire make her look like the sheltered wife of a well-to-do businessman, not a scientist who spends half her day in the field.
The plot outside of the key friendship is also uninteresting. The muddle of who’s doing what to whom is hard to follow, so it is hard to care about the outcome.
In fact, Other People’s Life drew inappropriate laughter from the audience in two places: when Mariano’s sister tells his daughter that she is “one of us,” and when Mariano has a fond flashback of his big brother giving him his first cigarette, letting him drive for the first time, and then letting him hold a gun for the first time. The scene felt like a parody out of a Zucker brothers comedy.
But that’s what you get at a regional film festival. The really great movies are few and far between, and many are forgettable, like Other People’s Life.