The title refers to Article 2 of the Italian Constitution, which allows citizens to live according to the dictates of their religion. Maurizio Zaccaro’s heartfelt but measured film attacks a loophole in that law in the personal story of a Muslim factory worker who has two wives. The result is a modest, decent film that could find a niche in cinemas and on TV screens in some territories.
“Article 2” covers territory similar to that of the Swiss Oscar winner “Journey to Hope,” as it details the problems facing Middle Eastern immigrants trying to enter and live in a European country. But this film lacks the dramatic highlights of the earlier pic, despite a contrived, heavily ironic, ending.
Said works in a Milan steel factory and lives in a small apartment with his wife, Malika, and three children, the eldest an increasingly precocious teenage girl. He’s a hard worker, accepted by his mates, who still unthinkingly upset him with leering tales about compliant Arab women.
He has left behind in his Algerian village his second wife, Fatma, who has been caring for his elderly father. When the father dies, Fatma and her three sons embark on the long journey, by decrepit bus and boat, for Italy. But when they arrive in Genoa, they face a problem with immigration officials; having two wives in Italy is bigamy, even if it’s allowable under Muslim law.
Writer/director Zaccaro sympathetically relates the plight of Said and his two families, exposing the hypocrisies and compromises of the Italian legal system. He’s a little too gentle, though, and the film could have done with a few more dramatic highlights. Italian racism seems mostly confined to schoolboys telling dirty stories or the occasional mindless thug (Said gets beaten up while trying to place a call to Algeria from a phone booth). Otherwise, most Italians are generous and kind to these Algerian immigrants, including Said’s boss, a woman neighbor and even the immigration officials. Muslim attitudes are also criticized, as Said at first balks to discover he’s been assigned a femme lawyer by the court.
The ending comes across as far too pat, tying up the loose ends with a deus ex machina and a dose of too-heavy irony. Zaccaro says his story is based on the experiences of several Italo-Muslims, but the screenplay fails to pull the threads together with complete satisfaction.
Production values are modest for this unsensational picture, and performances are natural and unforced, especially Mohamed Miftah as Said. Some very cute children have been cast as the younger members of Said’s families. The humanist message is certainly socked home, and for this reason alone the film will be of considerable appeal.