Paola Cortellesi, you’ve really depressed me now.
Cortellesi, the actress that I’ve been calling “Italy’s darling” for years stars in Massimiliano Bruno’s “dark comedy”(so dark I wouldn’t call it a comedy) Gli Ultimi Saranno Ultimi. In it, she’s Luciana, a factory worker married to a guy (Alessandro Gassman) who’s the love of her life, but allergic to work, so she’s the bread-winner.
They don’t have much, but he’s the love of her life and she shrugs off his money-making schemes and doesn’t pressure him into getting a job; that is, until she gets pregnant and all hell breaks loose.
They’d been trying to have a baby for years, and as Luciana gazed out at all the other people with babies in the world with a look (and maybe only those of us who have faced infertility issues could identity it) of sadness and resignation, realizing that it may just never happen for her.
Until it does, but the joy of impending motherhood lasts only a few months. The boss finds out she’s expecting and he refuses to renew her contract. He says it out loud, that’s the reason, so it must not be illegal in Italy to fire you for that. (In the USA they’d at least have the decency to make up something else about it so the company doesn’t get sued.)
In a side story, Fabrizio Bentivoglio plays a disgraced cop who gets transferred to Luciana’s town after a really unfortunate incident. Nobody likes him at work and they partner him up with the chubby police officer that no one else wants; he doesn’t like her much either, but they end up spending New Year’s eve together, randomly, telling each other their life stories.
“Now you’re really depressing me”, he tells her.
“Yeah, I have that effect of people”, she says.
The two stories converge in a not-at-all-funny way, and Paola Cortellesi really gets to show off her chops. She’s Italy’s finest comic actress, but here she shows that she can truly hold her own in a dramatic role. She’s completely believable as the disrespected, worn out, hopeless woman.
“I want my life back”, she says, spitting out the words like they are venom, mascara running, and ready to explode at any moment. No dramatic actress could have done better, playing the woman with the life that wasn’t all that great to begin with.
This is the kind of movie that Italy is going to identify with more, with themes of joblessness and unfair workplace practices that plague the country, and maybe that’s why it doesn’t seem to be showing up here in the US, but Americans would appreciate it anyway.
There’s a little comedy revolving around messed up antennas that cause the town church’s masses to be heard from everyone’s plumbing (“I can listen to the mass fo free!” The old ladies are delighted, not having to bring an offering as they say the Hail Mary through the toilet) a sleepy security guard, and a few other small, laughable moments, but this film is mostly heartbreaking and yes, depressing. Frankly, I think Bruno should have skipped the light hearted stuff; it seemed a little out of place.
Paola, you have really depressed me now. Never-the-less, I’m impressed.
Also stars Stefano Fresi and Ilaria Spada.