A 14-year-old pretends to go on a ski trip, but actually spends the week in isolation in his basement, escaping society's pressure. When his 25-year-old half-sister enters the basement, a few emotional and confronting days and nights ensue. Written by
Bertolucci resurfaces with a nice film in a small scale setting, but well made and good to watch
I saw this film at the Rotterdam film festival 2013, within the Spectrum section. I was not thinking much of it when reading the synopsis on the festival website, imagining the confinements of the plot: watching two people in the basement, lasting nearly 2 hours. But someone else made the choice for me to book tickets anyway. I'm glad to it, and admit wholeheartedly that my prejudice was in error.
Firstly, the young actor who plays the 14-year old boy, does a formidable job. He is believable throughout as a boy who does not interact smoothly with the world, passing the day with his own solitary hobbies. Instead of going on a ski camp with his schoolmates, he dutifully prepares staying in the basement for a whole week, and takes a lot of trouble not to tell a soul about him hiding there. He wants to be left alone; that is very clear from the start.
Secondly, his unexpectedly visiting half-sister is also remarkable in how she interacts with the boy. She pressures him to allow her in while having no place else to stay. She visibly suffers a cold turkey after her heroine addiction, a painful process she has solid reasons to go through, and to come out of it clean. She wants to regain her former life as a successful photographer, and to reunite with a former friend she knew years ago. In spite of not having personal experience with recovering from a drug addiction, I have the impression that the whole painful process is shown very well. It is one of the reasons bringing brother and half-sister closer together. They do not become intimate in the literal sense (Is that a spoiler? Did you expect it?), as far as we are able to observe. In spite of their differences in age and street wiseness, a certain form of mutual understanding is definitely reached.
The story develops slowly but steadily, and has no boring moments whatsoever. Ample variety is brought in, by including a few scenes outside the basement, and other albeit short interactions with some outsiders. Another plus is that the story does not develop in the most straightforward direction. For example, there is not even a hint that one of them wants sex with the other, as would be assumed by everyone reading the synopsis. Their situation is difficult, to say the least, and discovery is always lurking around the corner.
All in all, I'm not disappointed in the end result. It may not par up with some monumental films that Bertolucci made many years ago, but can that be construed as a problem?? Casting and acting can make or break a scenario like this, in this case with great success. The story left us with an open end, but I think that there was no other way, so also not a problem. This film ended 13th (out of 178) for the audience award with an average score of 4.401 (out of 5) from 1,524 votes.
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