La Ragazza del Lago (The Girl By The Lake) stars Toni Servillo (Il Divo, Gomorrah) as homicide detective Giovanni Sanzio who is in a small northern Italian town investigating the death of a beautiful young girl. It’s a mystery/suspense/thriller minus a whole lot of suspense and any of the thrills, relying on good acting and solid police work to carry the story. For me, it was satisfying (if not exciting) but for American audiences it may not pack enough of a punch.
There are twists and turns but the movie meanders from suspect to suspect without employing shock value to keep our attention. Without any “Oh my God!” moments or nail biting action we are left to our own devices to pay attention to Sanzio’s methodical investigation. And when the final credits rolled I was more “oh, yeah – that makes sense” than “I didn’t see that coming”. There are plenty of complications, but they are the kind that might really happen in an actual murder case. The fact is that in the end I had not guessed who was the murderer and the story had kept my interest, but neither had it kept me on the edge of my seat. The closest I came to feeling anxious was in the first 5 minutes of the film when I thought that a child was about to be kidnapped and murdered. It won a bunch of David di Donatello awards (best actor for Toni Servillo) and a couple at Venice (Servillo was named “best actor” here too).
It’s a good movie – no doubt about it, but Americans might feel that the “thriller” tag is a bit of false advertising. If it’s flawed (and I’m not sure this is a flaw) it’s in it’s dedication to the reality of a murder case. It takes you down no unnecessary roads and it does not waste your time with false herrings. Nothing blows up. We don’t see the murder. There’s not a drop of blood. Toni Servillo is one of those actors that is always worth going to a movie to see and it was filmed in a gorgeous alpine region of northern Italy – pretty to watch and putting me in the mood for a trip to Como this summer.
Director: Andrea Molaioli Writers: Karin Fossum (novel), Sandro Petraglia (screenplay) Stars: Toni Servillo, Denis Fasolo and Nello Mascia (with Valeria Golino).