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Kate Bosworth looks even more gorgeous in black and white as evidenced by While We Were Here, an Italy-set relationship drama that makes the most of the luminous beauty of both its star and the locations of Naples and the island of Ischia off the Amalfi coast. Unfortunately, this tale of an illicit romance between an unhappily married woman and a younger man traffics in far too many genre clichés, beginning with its idyllic locale. If one were to judge solely by the movies, no one is having affairs in, say, Detroit.
The film written and directed by Kat Coiro (who previously collaborated with Boswoth on Life Happens) begins with the arrival in Italy of Leonardo (Iddo Goldberg), a classical musician preparing for an important orchestral concert, and his writer wife Jane (Bosworth). Although they dutifully make love upon getting to their hotel, it’s quickly apparent that the relationship is suffering.
Despite his rarified profession, Leonardo is a meat-and-potatoes man (literally — at one point disparaging Italian food in favor of steak and kidney pie) who is, gasp, unable to express his feelings. Whenever Jane attempts to bring up deep philosophical questions — such as, for instance, why author David Foster Wallace killed himself — he brings the conversation to a screeching halt.
Jane, depressed over a miscarriage and her subsequent inability to have children, is working on a book about her British grandmother’s wartime remembrances, heard in interview recordings (voiced by Claire Bloom, who manages to steal the film without even appearing in it).
When Jane is hit on by footloose 19-year-old American Caleb (Jamie Blackley), she’s initially resistant to his charms. But he quickly wins over with such impulsive gestures as reciting a poem in Italian and skipping out on their restaurant bill. Later, after a typical evening with her husband in which he foregoes going out on the town in favor of a nice cup of tea, she tracks Caleb down and informs him, “I think I need to be less serious.”
And so the affair begins, with sequences depicting the rapturous lovers frolicking on the beach as Jane signals her renewed lust for life by literally letting down her hair.
It’s all familiar stuff, but it works to a certain extent thanks to Bosworth’s sensitive performance and Goldberg’s nuanced turn as the cuckolded husband.
And, of course, there are the stunning locations, which should prompt viewers to immediate book vacation tickets to Italy, even if it might provoke anxiety in insecure spouses. Although shot in color, the film is presented in black and white, which both adds romanticism to the visuals and recalls the Italian neo-realist films to which this effort harkens.
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (1821 Pictures, Dead Serious Films)
Cast: Kate Bosworth, Iddo Goldberg, Jamie Blackley, Claire Bloom
Director/screenwriter: Kat Coiro
Producer: Lauren Bratman
Executive producers: Terry Dougas, Paris Kasidokostas Latsis
Director of photography: Doug Chamberlian
Editor: Adam Catino
Music: Mateo Messina
No rating, 83 min.
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