The Man Who Loves

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Rome International Film Festival

ROME -- “The Man Who Loves” could have been an interesting exploration of the emotional life of a single man approaching 40. Instead, this second feature by Maria Sole Tognazzi (daughter of legendary actor Ugo and sister of actor-director Ricky) is dampened by too many cliches. Foreign audiences should find it watchable though so “The Man Who Loves” could easily play festivals and win a few sales.

The film centers on Roberto (Pier Francesco Favino), who is in love with Russian hotel receptionist Sara (Ksenia Rappoport, “The Unknown Woman”). He confides to his younger brother Carlo (Michele Alhaique) that he didn’t think he would ever love again and that the couple tentatively contemplates living together. Then Roberto finds out Sara has betrayed him.

Promptly dumping her, Roberto spirals into depression and obsession while his family and co-worker (Marisa Paredes) offer platitudes on heartache. However, Favino’s nuanced performance still makes the first act interesting. It is not often that a break-up and breakdown are seen from a man’s perspective. Usually only women are allowed that kind of sensitivity in movies.

Just as the film seems to take a darker turn, a worried Carlo (who has his own melodramatic subplots) mentions that his brother is experiencing the same pain Roberto himself recently caused. The filmmakers then use the latest trend of flashbacks and the next two acts to bring us up to speed on what we already know and/or can infer.

The story jumps back six months, when Roberto was still with Alba (Monica Bellucci) but slowly realizing he is no longer in love. While a man leaving “La Bellucci” may be a first, Tognazzi should have better developed the two female characters. As it is, Alba not only looks like a movie star but also has a wonderful job and is trying to have Roberto’s child. As written, Rappoport does not seem like the kind of person who could provoke so profound a reaction in such an apparently good man.

One of Italy’s finer actors, Favino so effortlessly carries the film that he even manages to appear natural washing himself without ever closing the shower door. (The camera likes to linger.) One can only hope lead roles he is offered will one day be as edgy and powerful as some of his supporting turns such as in “Romanzo Criminale.”

Production companies: BiancaFilm, Medusa Film.
Cast: Pier Francesco Favino, Ksenia Rappoport, Monica Bellucci, Marisa Paredes, Michele Alhaique, Glen Blackhall, Piera Degli Esposti, Arnaldo Ninchi.
Director: Maria Sole Tognazzi.
Screenwriter: Maria Sole Tognazzi, Ivan Cotroneo.
Producer: Donatella Botti.
Director of photography: Arnaldo Catinari.
Production designer: Tonino Zera.
Music: Carmen Consoli.
Costume designer: Antonella Cannarozzi.
Editor: Walter Fasano.
Sales Agent: Adriana Chiesa Enterprises.
No rating, 99 minutes.

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