A Quiet Life -- Film Review

Claudio Cupellini shows a remarkably assured hand in his suspenseful sophomore feature. 

ROME -- Claudio Cupellini changes register after his 2007 debut comedy “Chocolate Lessons” with “A Quiet Life,” a polished story about a seemingly peaceful man whose violent past comes back to haunt him. The film’s great, gnawing tension hits its peak too soon, unfortunately, giving way to a weak third act. Nonetheless, it proves Cupellini to be a versatile, assured director, who could only get better with time.

Lead actor Toni Servillo (“Il Divo”), who is cranking out good or great films at an incredible rate, is always a guarantee of quality. At home he’s a bankable star with both commercial and art film audiences. Internationally, “A Quiet Life” can expect a quietly solid life on art-house circuits.

Diego (Marco D’Amore) and Edoardo (Francesco Di Leva) are coked-up hitmen from Naples on their way to a job in Wiesbaden, Germany, when Diego suggests they hole up beforehand with a relative of his, Rosario (Toni Servillo). Rosario is an Italian chef who runs a restaurant and hotel with his German wife Renate (Juliane Kohler, who played Eva Braun in Oliver Hischbiegel’s “Downfall”) and their young son (Leonardo Sprengler) in the countryside.

Rosario is immediately worried to see the young men, but Diego assures him everything is fine: He and Edoardo are juts olive oil salesman passing through. The man displays tenderness towards Diego that belies a deeper connection, and raises Edoardo’s suspicions as to the real identity of Rosario, who starts to crack as his hard-earned tranquility is threatened.

Cupellini and cinematographer Gergely Poharnok use a cold, rainy palate to create the subdued and orderly atmosphere in which Rosario has found tenuous peace. This, of course, means the swaggering Edoardo and Diego stick out like sore thumbs.

D’Amore and Di Leva are perfectly cast. The latter especially exudes a Neanderthal, hair-trigger temper and a perverse sense of humor that are convincingly dangerous from the start.

Servillo is great, as always, and it’s nice to seem him play a character with a bit more meekness than the usual tough guys he has down pat. Kohler isn’t given much to do, but Alice Dwyer consistently stands out as an angelic-looking hotel maid who gets it on with Edoardo.

Award-winning composer Teho Teardo’s (“Il Divo,” “Gorbaciof”) excellent electronic score is woven seamlessly into the mounting suspense of the film’s first, and best, two acts. But with a third of the film to go, Cupellini leaves too much time in between the story’s major revelation and the finale and cannot maintain the film’s fine-tuned tension as events spiral dramatically out of control.

 

Venue: Rome International Film Festival (Competition)
Production companies: Acaba Produzioni, RAI Cinema
Cast: Toni Servillo, Marco D’Amore, Francesco Di Leva, Juliane Kohler, Leonardo Sprengler, Alice Dwyer, Maurizio Donadoni, Giovanni Ludeno
Director: Claudio Cupellini
Screenwriters: Filippo Gravino, Guido Iuculano, Claudio Cupellini
Producer: Fabrizio Mosca
Director of photography: Gergely Poharnok
Production designer: Erwin Prib
Music: Teho Teardo
Costume designer: Mariano Tufano
Editor: Giuseppe Trepiccione
Sales: Beta Cinema
No rating, 103 minutes

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