Summer Games: Venice Film Review

Good-looking story of teenage misadventures showcases an appealing young lead, but is undone by clunky scriptwriting.

Swiss-Italian filmmaker Rolando Colla fashions a coming-of-age tale that features a promising teen newcomer, Armando Condolucci.

The sterling contributions of cinematographer Lorenz Merz and teen actor Armando Condolucci are the main reasons to watch Summer Games (Giochi d’estate), an otherwise below-par variation on some exceedingly familiar themes. Following the escapades and misadventures of a tough Roman kid on holiday at the Tuscan coast with his younger brother and constantly-feuding parents, this fourth feature from Italian-Swiss director/co-writer Rolando Collamay obtain a little more festival exposure than his last, 2007’s The Other Half, with Venice and Toronto exposure presaging a limited release in Italian-speaking territories before segueing to the small screen.

The latter format won’t be an ideal way to appreciate Merz’s work, who delivers a fine advertisement for the Red One Mysterium-X camera here. The dunes, shores, forests and farmlands of coastal Tuscany during the warmest months of the year are inescapably picturesque, but the high-definition digital images keep things a long way from picture-postcard prettiness. Indeed, there’s often a slightly steely edginess to the film’s look, in keeping with its gritty presentation of the violence that can often erupt between teenage friends, and, sometimes, married couples.

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The passionate relationship between Adriana (Alessia Barela) and Vincenzo (Antonio Merone) is clearly far from harmonious, their rows often descending into domestic abuse – as witnessed at first hand by their sons Nic (Condolucci) and Agostino (Marco D’Orazi). The boys understandably prefer to spend time with their peers, and befriend a pair of sisters from Geneva – Marie (Fiorella Campanella) and Patty (Chiara Scolari), bilingual in French and Italian. But whereas one might perhaps expect Colla and his scriptwriting collaborators to explore the evident social, cultural and class differences between the lads and lasses, such aspects remain untapped. Instead the emphasis is on more predictable terrain, including a budding romance – after the inevitable early hostility – between Nic, who proudly proclaims his lack of feelings, and the more touchy-feely Marie.

One problem with the puppy-love angle is that charismatic newcomer Condolucci is much more an accomplished performer than the slightly awkward Campanella, who has to do emotional heavy lifting as Marie obsesses over the fate of her long-vanished father. Nic’s dad, of course, is all too inescapably present, an irony which Colla and company lay on with a heavy hand.

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After a promisingly atmospheric opening, Summer Games loses its way as it brings together its various characters and storylines. Adriana edges towards an unlikely affair with a muscular, motorbike-riding archeologist campsite-neighbor (Aaron Hitz), provoking Vincenzo into a fit of vicious jealousy for the picture’s overwrought climax. Colla does get things back on track a little with a lovely, sensitive seaside encounter between Nic and Marie in the closing stages, but this is a rare interlude of restraint and quiet in a picture which too often mistakes noisy confrontations for organic plot-development.

Venue: Venice Film Festival
Production companies: Peacock Film, Classic SRL
Cast: Armando Condolucci, Alessia Barela, Antonio Merone, Fiorella Campanella
Director: Rolando Colla
Screenwriter: Rolando Colla, Roberto Scarpetti, Olivier Lorelle, Pilar Anguita-Mackay

Based on a story by: Rolando Colla
Producers: Elena Pedrazzoli, Amedeo Pagani, Ilann Girard
Executive producer: Ilann Girard
Director of photography: Lorenz Merz
Production designer: Paola Genni
Music: Bernd Schurer
Editors: Rolando Colla, Didier Ranz
Sales: Rezo, Paris
No rating, 106 minutes

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