La vita possibile: Being reborn after a period of violence
by Vittoria Scarpa
- Ivano De Matteo is back with a story of a family in trouble, but this time he turns his attention to feelings and hope. An Italian-French co-production starring Margherita Buy and Valeria Golino
There’s a way out for those subjected to violence, before they see their whole life destroyed or end up in the newspapers. This is what Ivano De Matteo is trying to tell us in La vita possibile [+see also:
film profile], his fourth feature film, in which he goes back to focusing on families in trouble, a theme very dear to this Roman director. But whilst his previous films, particularly Gli equilibristi [+see also:
film profile] (shown in competition in the Orizzonti section at the 69th Venice Film Festival) and The Dinner [+see also:
interview: Ivano De Matteo
film profile] (shown in the Venice Days section of the 71st Venice Film Festival), centre around seemingly happy families that fall to pieces, here we have the opposite: we start of with a state of destruction to then go through a process of reconstruction, with a woman on the run from her violent husband who tries to rebuild her life in another city with her 13-year-old son.
We were perhaps expecting a film about domestic violence that takes a closer look at the dynamics involved. But La vita possibile is more a story about what happens after, a story of courage, hope and friendship, along with doubt and feelings of guilt, the guilt of a mother who decides to take her son away from his father, a painful choice. Indeed, although the cast features two of Italy’s most sought-after actresses, Margherita Buy and Valeria Golino, the true protagonist of the film is a boy, Valerio (Andrea Pittorino, who we previously saw in Amori elementari [+see also:
film profile] and Misunderstood [+see also:
film profile]), and his difficult task of adapting to a city that isn’t his (the film was shot in Turin), far from his friends and everything he knows, alone and disoriented, without his father who, in spite of everything, seems to love him.
A guest with his mother Anna (Buy) in the small apartment of Carla (Golino), an old and single friend, exuberant and sorrowful, who welcomes them with open arms, Valerio finds himself a surrogate father figure in the French restaurant owner of the neighbourhood Mathieu (French-Swiss actor Bruno Todeschini) who is in turn also fleeing from a painful past, and nurtures an impossible love for young prostitute Larissa (played by Byelorussian actress Caterina Shulha). Between glimmers of happiness and searing disappointment, the young boy’s path as he grows up leads him to reject his mother: “It seems absurd, but a minor can end up hating his mother, blaming her for taking him away from his father”, explains De Matteo, who, to write the screenplay with his companion Valentina Furlan, consulted a neuropsychiatrist, and listened to the stories of several women who have been the victims of violence, discovering first and foremost that “many of them had their hands tied, because at the end of the day, these men never did anything to their children”.
The film takes on the tones of a protest film when Anna tries to get psychological support for Valerio and is told that she will need the consent of his father (which is impossible, considering that it is from him that the mother and son are fleeing). Otherwise, La vita possibile is above all a coming-of-age story and a story of female solidarity, of different types of loneliness coming together, in which love prevails over hate. A “neo neorealist” film – in the words of De Matteo – one with an important message, but which makes us long ever so slightly for the more provocative vein of the director’s previous films (including, among others, Beautiful People [+see also:
La vita possibile is an Italian-French co-production by Rodeo Drive and Barbary Films with Rai Cinema, and received support from the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and the Film Commission Torino Piemonte. The film is being released in Italy today, 22 September, in 71 copies by Teodora Film.
(Translated from Italian)