Don't Move (Non ti muovere)

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Don't Move (Non ti muovere)
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews Laura Clifford 
A prominent surgeon (Sergio Castellito) waits anxiously after his 15-year old daughter, while riding her motor scooter one rainy night, was struck by a car and, now, her life hangs in the balance under another surgeon’s knife. As he lingers just outside the operating room, he thinks back to another time about an adulterous young doctor, a vulnerable, uneducated woman by the name Italia (Penelope Cruz) and their love/hate affair in “Don’t Move.”

As Timoteo (Castellito) faces this new crossroad in his life as his daughter hangs between life and death he remembers another juncture 15 years ago. While driving through a dreary suburban town, his car breaks down. This was a time before cell phones were popular and the doctor can’t find a telephone to call for help. A trashily dressed, overly made up young woman offers to let him use her telephone. He repays the woman’s kindness by attacking and raping her then, abruptly, leaves.

Timo can’t get the vulnerable Italia out of his mind and, repeatedly, returns and has his way with her, leaving money as one would a common prostitute. But, as he goes back to his sterile marriage with Elsa (Claudia Gerini) after each visit, he increasingly has thoughts only for Italia. His passion for the strange young woman causes Timoteo to decide to leave his wife until she breaks some important news to him – Elsa is pregnant. This news comes on the heels of learning that Italia was also carrying child. Timo faces another of the crossroads that make up life.

Veteran actor and second-time director Sergio Castellito and novelist Margaret Mazzantini adapt the author’s work in a character study of a man whose long-dormant emotions errupt when he meets Italia. The upper class, highly regarded surgeon is in a cool but comfortable marriage to Elsa that is threatened when he crosses paths with seasonal worker Italia. As his marriage deteriorates his relationship with the stranger intensifies in lustful, almost violent sexual encounters. Timo grows more and more distant from Elsa as he gets closer and more dependent on Italia. But, a juncture is reached when Elsa announces her pregnancy and he is forced, out of loyalty, to stay with his spouse and soon-to-be-born child. The conflict, desire, confusion and emotional upheaval that Timo experiences are palpably drawn, in front of and behind the camera, by Castellito.

Penelope Cruz gives a powerhouse performance as the melancholy, vulnerable, oddly beautiful Italia. Cruz speaks Italian (for the first time in a role, I think) and is convincing in the language, at least to my untrained ear. Italia is about to be forced out of her family home, sold years before by her grandfather to developers, and will have to find another place to live. Her pending departure is one of the instances when Timo uses the title phrase. Cruz gives Italia a bruised, resigned nature that expects, if not accepts, to be taken advantage of. When Timo arrives on the scene, she is proved right. But, in the end there is real strength of character to Italia.

Claudia Gerini, as Elsa, carries herself with elegance and style as the wife of a well-to-do surgeon. She is used to her pampered lifestyle and is blithely unaware (or, is she?) of her husband’s peccadilloes. Gerini has an on-screen presence that is a convincing foil to Italia – her cool beauty stands in distinct contrast to Italia’s garish look. Supporting cast is effective in filling in the background as Timo’s colleagues and friends.

Castellito, like other actor-directors, gives his thespians the reigns in developing the characters in Don’t Move.”  He shows a deft directing style in letting his co-stars create three-dimensional characters that would give rise to the conflicts that Timo imposes upon himself. Techs are solid with Gianfilippo Corticelli doing yeoman lens work and costumer Isabella Rizza providing Cruz with an outlandish but provocative series of outfit. Makeup artist Whitney James turns the pretty actress into a near-hideous vision.

As Timo’s story pulls away from his past and returns to the present, “Don’t Move” starts to faulter. The return to his current life and death crisis over his daughter, Angela (Elena Perino), made me long for more of his time and intensity with Italia. Still, the actor-writer-director does a sold job. I give it a B.

Timoteo (Sergio Castellitto, "The Last Kiss," "Va Savoir") is a Roman surgeon who is interrupted in the OR by his colleague Ada (Angela Finocchiaro) who tells him a young girl with his last name has been admitted with severe head trauma.  As he waits to hear whether his daughter will pull through or not, he sees a woman in the square sit down in the rain and is flooded with memories about Italia (Penélope Cruz, "Sahara"), the 'poor wretch' he almost abandoned his family for in "Don't Move."

Writer (from the novel by Margaret Mazzantini)/director/star Sergio Castellitto ("Mostly Martha's" Italian chef) proves a potent visual director while also delivering a dark twist on the romantic male lead.  An almost unrecognizable Penélope Cruz, all smeared makeup, bad teeth and bleachy streaks, goes for the gut with her heart-rending turn as a needy, abused woman still capable of love.  "Don't Move" is sure to polarize, though, with its affair that begins with a rape and overt lack of restraint.

When Timoteo's car breaks down in a dusty nowhere town, he's forced to wait for a mechanic and   A young, slatternly woman (Cruz) offers him the use of her telephone, but he cannot reach his wife.  Back at the cafe, he slakes his thirst with the only cold beverage available - vodka - then returns to the woman's apartment and asks to use the phone again.  When his wife Elsa (Claudia Gerini, "The Passion of the Christ," "Under the Tuscan Sun")  answers, he hangs up and attacks his benefactress.

So begins the symbolic duality of "Don't Move," a surgeon's cold wife contrasted by his bedraggled lover with an oversized name.  Italia gradually discloses how her father, 'not a family man,' once molested her in return for a flowered dress she coveted where Timoteo, writing thank you's after his father's funeral, will flash back to the day his father overturned his plate and announced he was leaving.  Castellitto even crisscrosses crosses sub themes within his larger ones, that dress remembered when Italia caresses the Christening gown Elsa has bought for the daughter who now lies between life and death (another of Timoteo's children will never be born).  His childish flashback includes an observation of cruelty, a group of kids killing a frog (which he compassionately buries).  The adult Timoteo viciously kicks his mother-in-law's little dog.

Castellitto has a keen visual and aural sense.  The cold vodka drunk while loud music blares making us feel the heat of that fateful day.  He films the rape in an edited series of increasingly longer shots, until we're outside the window and can no longer see in. Italia's red clay house is dwarfed in the shadows of three apartment buildings being erected and is oddly reminiscent of Fellini's prostitute Cabiria's remote seaside home. Elsa is equated with the sea (our first 'image' of her is her bathing suit hanging on a line, Timoteo makes love to her on top of a bunch of shells) while Italia is of the earth.  Timoteo writes 'I raped a woman' in the sand which his oblivious wife crosses running into the surf.  When Timoteo sees Italia watching him and Elsa for the first time, she's drenched in rain.  Castellitto  uses his score sparingly, but unusually loud in the sound mix and it works.

Cruz and Castellitto both won an 'Italian Oscar' for their acting and they're both terrific, never more so than in that silent rain scene where her hurt is met by his anguish and turns into comfort.  Castellitto is a mix of kindness and cruelty and is disturbed by his own behavior.  Cruz is animalistic, sometimes beaten, other times wild.

The stunning Gerini looks like Theresa Russell given a dash of Stockard Channing and she projects cool, urban professionalism.  Very good supporting Castellitto is Marco Giallini as Timoteo's best friend and colleague Manlio.  He is a wry but supportive observer of Timoteo's tumultuous life.

"Don't Move" ultimately becomes too overwrought and sentimental, like "Back Street" given the European art film treatment.  Still, Castellitto has helmed a very engaging and ofttimes moving film.


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