An above-average ensemble drama about nothing more specific than life and love, Stefano Incerti’s “Life as It Comes” moves a wide range of top-form actors through five separate but intercut stories. If the structure feels awfully French, the outlook and concerns of the characters are appealingly Italian, and whole effort has a touch more melancholy and far less irony than similar Gallic pics by, say, Claude Lelouch. Fast-moving stories offer something for everyone and could take hold locally, with breakthrough sales to markets interested in Euro drama that’s not too arty.
Shot in 2001, and preemed at last fall’s Viareggio fest, the Cecchi Gori production is only now getting an Italian release, May 9, through a deal with Medusa, which this spring is bringing out all the main titles on the Cecchi Gori Group wait list. However, pic has lost none of its freshness.
Incerti, known for his offbeat Neapolitan films like “Il Verificatore,” sets the action in rich northern Italy, marking a geographical as well as stylistic break with his previous work. Paola (a complex, not particularly neurotic Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and her husband (Alberto Gimignani) live above their means and are already having communication problems when their two small children disappear, apparently in a kidnapping. The crisis brings her to a sudden illumination about a caring, sensitive librarian, Laura (Lorenza Indovina), who’s been anonymously writing her love letters.
Enslaved by profound love for his emotionally disturbed teenage son (Primo Reggiani), jazz musician Beppe (Alessandro Haber at his serious best) struggles with his anxieties about the boy while trying to eke out a living playing in clubs and restaurants. Meanwhile, a lonely widower (the fine Tony Musante) spends his birthday in the company of an attractive woman (a convincing Stefania Sandrelli) he meets in a supermarket. But his psyche is too damaged to let him accept the unexpected gift of her love.
Other problems torment two young couples. A hunky dentist (Daniele Liotti) neglects his sexy wife (Stefania Rocca) to play weekend war games with his macho buddies, with tragic results. In another tale, a young architect (Claudio Santamaria) doesn’t tell his wife (Maddalena Maggi) he’s been sacked; he takes her and their small child on a weekend “vacation” where the anxieties of both surface and ultimately resolve themselves.
Screenplay puts its finger on middle-class ills without making obvious moral judgments. The stories’ carefully dosed conflict is echoed in Paolo Buonvino’s measured, almost stately music track. Cinematographer Pasquale Mari makes his usual strong contribution, individuating the tales while linking them with a heavy use of close-ups that keeps the characters on center stage. Editing keeps everything moving forward, without the irritation of inter-story cliffhangers.