The movie, directed by Emidio Greco, is, like in most Sciascia adaptations, a murder mystery. Once again we're back in Sicily, the author's birthplace, and the local police is investigating the death of an old man in an inhospitable villa outside town. With a bullet hole in his forehead and an old gun lying on the floor, the authorities are anxious to write it off as suicide, except the tenacious Brigadier Lepri (Ricky Tognazzi) refuses to drop the case until the truth is ascertained.
The movie, however, is less concerned with truth than with the atmosphere of silence and class prejudices that govern Sicilian society's views on crime and justice. Not investigating murder is safer since you never know if the criminals involved aren't important pillars of society, and going against such people is always a pain in the ass. With that in mind, the end of the movie is darkly humorous for its bleak cynicism.
Una Storia Semplice is a simple movie and hardly to impress itself on viewers' minds. The plot is relatively straightforward, the camera work is conventional. The best thing the movie has in its favour is the dialogues, with the usual Sciascia wit, and the performances. Volonté plays an aging teacher who knows the victim and helps in the investigation. We also have Ennio Fantastichini (he had co-starred with Volonté before in Porte Aperte) as a shifty chief of police, and Ricky Tognazzi as the suffering honest cop who wants to get to the bottom of the murder.
The movie benefits from Sicily's natural landscapes, I'm always amused by the fact that such a beautiful place has acted so often as the setting of gruesome murders in Italian movies. Although Una Storia Semplice is hardly essential cinema, it is worth watching once.