(Lionsgate) Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Luigi Lo Cascio, Alessio Boni, Stefania Rocca, Angela Finocchiaro, Giuseppe Battiston, Valerio Binasco, Lucy Akhurst. Directed by Cristina Comencini
We all bear some sort of painful secret from our past that haunts us in one way or another. Sometimes we are consciously aware of that pain, other times it hides in our inner psyche, buried deeply only to be released unexpectedly and unwanted.
Sabina (Mezzogiorno) has a pretty nice life. She works as a voice-over actress, dubbing Hollywood movies. Her boyfriend Franco (Boni) is a handsome, well-regarded stage actor who has taken a role as a doctor in a soap opera that, while beneath his talents, will settle their financial issues for many years to come. Sabina is also pregnant, which she is trying to figure out the right way to break to her boyfriend.
However, she is beset by nightmares that torture her night after night. She realizes that this has something to do with her past but she can’t figure out what for the life of her. Determined to find out why these demons are tormenting her, she is determined to visit her brother Daniele (Lo Cascio) who lives in America, a professor of Italian literature at the University of Virginia.
Before she leaves, she needs to see to her friend Emelia (Rocca), who lost her sight at 20 and has been depressed ever since. Sabina visits her regularly and Emelia has developed a romantic attachment to her. Sabina however is quite straight and arranges for Emelia to be visited and assisted by Sabina’s director, Maria (Finocchiaro) who is also going through a difficult time – her husband has just left her for her daughter’s college friend.
The movie is mostly about Sabina’s journey and the truth behind her nightmares which I won’t reveal here – the movie will present a far more powerful impact if you don’t know what it is. Comencini adapted her own novel, which was inspired by a newspaper article of an adult brother and sister coming to terms with a childhood trauma.
Mezzogiorno does a terrific job here, playing a woman alternately confused, frustrated and eventually angry at the things that she can’t figure out, until the moment she does realize what happened to her in her past. It’s a compelling screen moment, one of the best in recent years.
If there’s a quibble here, it has to do with the two subplots that occur during the movie, one involving the budding relationship between Emelia and Maria and the other involving the boyfriend being chased by a seductive ingénue on the set of his soap opera. To my mind they were distracting, unnecessary and at times confusing. I can understand why they are there, however; the main story is wrenching and requires some relieve for the audience.
This wound up losing the Oscar to Tsotsi which is justified I think; that movie is a superior movie and one of the best of the decade. However, when you consider that this had to compete with Paradise Now and The Final Days of Sophie Scholl, you realize what a remarkable crop of movies came out from places other than Hollywood that year.
This isn’t always an easy movie to watch and those who are sensitive to child endangerment and to sexual situations are advised to give it a wide berth. However, this is one of the finest examinations of the female psyche and the effects of devastating trauma upon it that I have ever seen. From that standpoint alone, this is a movie worth seeking out although methinks it will be difficult to find at the average video store; an online rental service such as Netflix (where I rented it from) and Amazon might be your best bets.
WHY RENT THIS: A very difficult subject is handled with sensitivity but without pulling any punches. Mezzogiorno, Lo Cascio and Boni all deliver outstanding performances.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Some of the subplots seem to unnecessarily derail the main thrust of the film.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some very mature sexual content as well as nudity here, as well as a scene of shocking violence. There is also plenty of foul language throughout. This is most definitely for mature audiences only.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Don’t Tell won the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was a nominee for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2006..
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.
FINAL RATING: 7/10
TOMORROW: Exit Through the Gift Shop