Review: I Told You So
- Ginevra Elkann’s second feature film is an ensemble portrait of a population wrestling with anxieties and on the brink of an apocalypse, in a version of Rome which reaches 50 degrees in January
This year, too, the temperature in Italy reached record highs. But what would it be like if the infernal heat of July and August were to repeat itself in January? Ginevra Elkann imagines this eventuality in her new film (her second after the autobiographical work If Only [+see also:
film profile]) following a series of characters in Rome, where it reaches 50 degrees at Christmas, whose problems (which are serious, each in their own way) steadily worsen.
Just watching I Told You So [+see also:
film profile], a movie presented in the 48th Toronto Film Festival’s Platform competition, is enough to makes us sweat. The director who hails from the Agnelli family (Gianni was his grandad) has taken an exceptional cast and thrust them into a dangerously close dystopia. It’s wintertime, there are Christmas trees with their lights still twinkling in people’s homes, but the news networks are reporting an abnormal heatwave which is sweeping its way across the country. In Rome, in particular, the mercury is climbing to upwards of 30 degrees in January, and this unexpected rise in temperatures is showing no signs of abating.
This is the context in which we find the film’s characters, each of them grappling with their own anxieties. Gianna (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) is a religious fanatic obsessed with her former pornstar friend with whom she has a score to settle. The latter, Pupa (a fully botoxed Valeria Golino, all wig and fake eyelashes), had her moment of glory in the ’80s and now clings onto her few remaining fans and performs in live shows of questionable taste. Meanwhile, Gianna’s twenty-year-old daughter Mila (Sofia Panizzi) has an eating disorder – and given the conversations she has with her mother, it’s easy to understand why – which she only seems capable of managing when in the company of an elderly lady (Marisa Borini) she takes care of.
On the other hand, there’s Father Bill (Danny Huston, flaunting a perfect Italian accent), an Italian-American priest who’s also an ex-heroin addict and who ends up wrestling against a perilous vortex of emotions when his sister (Greta Scacchi) arrives from America with their deceased mother’s ashes, reopening old wounds. And then there’s Caterina (Alba Rohrwacher) who’s fighting an alcohol addiction and desperate to regain custody of her little son who’s now entrusted to her ex (Riccardo Scamarcio) who still loves her. When the temperature rapidly reaches 50 degrees and the air is so thick you could cut it with a knife (the film’s photography, in piping hot tones, is expertly directed by Vladan Radovic), the characters in this frantic ensemble movie come close to insanity.
Written by the director together with Chiara Barzini, who previously partnered with her on If Only, and Ilaria Bernardini, I Told You So is a black comedy whose intelligent, drip-fed humour treats us to some genuinely hilarious moments, especially in scenes involving Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Valeria Golino, who are great friends in real life but arch rivals in the film. Golino, in particular, looks like she’s having the time of her life in her new role as a former porn diva come saccharine fairy with inflated lips, who flashes a smile at everyone she meets and who remembers her exploits. The Danny Houston-Greta Scacchi pairing is also well worth a mention for the authentic way in which they convey the nuances of a turbulent brother-sister relationship, and the possibility of finding a new path.
(Translated from Italian)
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