- Edoardo Gabriellini’s third feature film is a psychological thriller set in the provinces, which touches upon family and female-based themes, but which fails to hold our attention
After making his debut as an actor in 1997’s Ovosodo by Paolo Virzì, Edoardo Gabriellini subsequently stepped behind the cameras in 2003 to offer up B. B. & The Cormorant. In 2010, he met Luca Guadagnino, starring in his movie I Am Love [+see also:
interview: Luca Guadagnino - director
film profile], and the former is now one of the three producers supporting Gabriellini’s third feature film Holiday [+see also:
interview: Edoardo Gabbriellini
film profile], which is screening in the Toronto Film Festival’s Centrepiece section.
Part-psychological thriller set against a socially-oriented background and part-provincial courtroom drama, Holiday unfolds during the summer in a typical seaside town on the Ligurian coast where everyone knows one another. Twenty-year-old Veronica (Margherita Corradi) has been released from prison after 22 months, having been subjected to a lengthy trial which saw her accused of brutally murdering her mother and her lover. The court found her not guilty through lack of evidence, but everyone sees her as the monster to condemn. A ruthless witch hunt is triggered on social media, and the family’s hotel, which Veronica returns to and which houses the spa where the two lovers were slaughtered, is besieged by journalists and TV cameras.
Holiday is a puzzle which only fully comes together in the final minutes of the film’s 100-minute runtime, continually toing and froing between the past and the present to the point that the audience often struggles to keep up, clinging onto details such as the protagonist’s nose piercing or her yellow mobile phone. We learn that the protagonist’s fascinating mother (Alice Arcuri) mistreated and humiliated her because she couldn’t stand her daughter’s sloppiness or the fact that she was overweight. “You make me sick”, she whispers sweetly into her ear. In a flashback to the closing statement of the trial, where the accused declares herself innocent, Veronica actually offers up an admission of guilt, of sorts, providing a clear motive for the murder: “My mother was beautiful, educated, sociable, she knew how to dress and how to relate to people. I’m rude, unpleasant, aggressive…” What’s more, the public prosecutor and the wider public are convinced that Veronica had an accomplice: her best friend Giada (Giorgia Frank). She’s believed to be the one who organised the alcohol and cocaine-fuelled evening, together with two Dutch youngsters who were passing through, during which Veronica supposedly lost her virginity. If we add the dead lover’s wife (Alessia Giuliani) to the equation - a family friend who might have sought revenge over her partner’s betrayal - and Veronica’s very protective father (Alessandro Tedeschi), who’s incredibly resentful of his wife’s continual betrayals, then we’ve got a full spectrum of suspects.
Despite elaborate manoeuvres in the screenplay penned by Gabbriellini himself alongside Carlo Salsa, the film’s dark side doesn’t work, to the point that we reach the end without either a healthy or a morbid interest in actually solving the mystery. The director seems more interested in the family and social dynamics the protagonist is negotiating. Veronica moves through this touristic town, inseparable from Giada, hiding behind her beauty and feeling inadequate. But, ultimately, her insecurity is her strength. She dances in nightclubs heedless of others, perhaps finally free from the limits set by her overbearing mother. The director lingers on her shape, the source of her mother’s body shaming; he has the two friends conversing in a more current youthful language, he toys with twenty-year-olds’ sexual and relational issues, he hints at the unempathetic protagonist’s bulimia. But there’s not much time for character development, which leaves us fairly indifferent over their fate.
(Translated from Italian)
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