Giovanna's Father

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Additional Venice Film Festival reviews

Venice Film Festival, In Competition

Pupi Avati’s second film in less than a year, "Giovanna's Father," centers on a protective and doting father who chooses to stay by his daughter’s side even after she is institutionalized for killing a schoolmate. The film's at times emotional, at times sophomoric treatment of heavy subject matter should earn it only modest returns at home and little beyond the festival circuit abroad.

Set in Bologna (though only the bit players speak with a regional accent), the film spans 15 years, beginning in 1938. High school art teacher Michele (Silvio Orlando) loves his socially and mentally inept daughter Giovanna (Alba Rohrwacher) so much that he will even stoop to blackmailing school lothario Dalmastri into dating her or else fail the entire year. His beautiful wife Delia (Francesca Neri) fears the false hopes he gives the girl, rightfully so when they lead her to commit murder.

Delia, who married Michele only for the stability he offered, is moreover in love with their neighbor, fascist police officer Sergio (Ezio Greggio), who sticks by the family with money and rations after their fall from grace.

Orlando’s performance renders credible the central story while Neri and Greggio bring a certain amount of dignity to their parts. As does Rohrwacher, in a challenging role that hits almost all the stereotypes of the mentally insane.
 
Unfortunately, however, Avati fills the movie with detailed scenes that do little to push the story along, further diluted by secondary characters that walk in and out of the frame delivering lines with seemingly no direction. The WWII years are the weakest part of the film, in particular when a mortally wounded Sergio escapes a Partisan firing squad to die moments later, surrounded by a group of bemused onlookers.

"Giovanna's Father" ends on a high note so improbable that even the most devout fans of happy endings will find hard to believe.

Production companies: DueA Film, Medusa Film. Cast: Silvio Orlando, Alba Rohrwacher, Francesca Neri, Ezio Greggio, Serena Grandi, Antonio Pisu, Manuela Morabito. Director: Pupi Avati. Screenwriter: Avati. Producer: Antonio Avati. Director of photography: Pasquale Rachini. Production designer: Giuliano Pannuti. Music: Riz Ortolani. Editor: Amedeo Salfa. Sales Agent: RAI Trade. 144 minutes.

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