by Kaleem Aftab
- LOCARNO 2018: Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli’s film is a look at social media’s influence on teenagers, but ends up being all at sea
Italian director Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli won three awards at the 2014 Rome Film Fest for his debut feature, Last Summer [+see also:
film profile], which unfolded on a yacht upon which a Japanese mother is spending her last four days with her child following a lost custody battle. His new film, Likemeback [+see also:
film profile], playing in the Filmmakers of the Present section at Locarno, has a similar luscious, wavy, blue background, but this time on the boat are three teenage girls celebrating the end of high school and their experiencing of the ascent – or is it a descent? – into adulthood.
Danila (Angela Fontana) is obsessed with taking great pictures so that she can maintain her lead over an unseen rival in terms of the number of friends she has on Instagram. Carla (Denise Tantucci) is the quietest of the trio and the most hung-up on romance, and the only one seemingly concerned about further education. And then there is Lavinia (Blu Yoshimi), who is ostensibly the most free: she goes skinny dipping in the sea when we first meet the girls, but is the most insecure about her own body and status. Also on the voyage is the boat’s captain, Josco, played by Goran Marković, and when the girls speak to him they switch from Italian to pidgin English. There is not so much a plot, but rather a series of incidents following the structure of action, reaction and remorse, and it doesn’t take long before it’s clear that we’re going to need a bigger boat.
The biggest obstacle to their lives crops up when Carla drops her phone into the sea, so how is she going to connect with her love interest? And how annoying is it for her and her pals that she has to borrow their phones from time to time? The biggest source of dramatic tension is provided by the doubt over whether these girls will still be fast friends once the end credits roll.
Seràgnoli tells the story in classic fashion, relying on what the movie camera sees without resorting to forcing images on screen. There are no cuts to images on the phone, or flashes of text or images on screen to represent the connected world, methods that have become fairly popular in contemporary cinema, especially in films about young people and their modern lives. The information we get about the girls, and the snippets about how they came to be here, and who they are, arrive organically through tidbits of conversations and calls from their family. Yet the film falters because the camera seems to offer a male gaze, despite the efforts made by Seràgnoli to work with the actresses on creating the script in an organic fashion. While their interactions and the volatile swings in their emotions feel true to adolescence, there is a failure to really delve into the emotional core of these girls. Ultimately, the movie fails to have anything groundbreaking to say about social media, and some big questions feel skimmed over like a stone on a wave. There are too many clichéd moments, especially the defining event that kicks off the final act, and as such, this Italian-Croatian co-production feels all at sea.
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