A well-crafted teen romancer pairing a studious uptown girl and a drag-racing thug, “Three Steps Over Heaven” marks a confident move into features for music-vid and commercials helmer Luca Lucini. Boosted by fresh performances, pic nearly succeeds in capturing first-love magic but is stilted by an excessively formulaic feel and a script that sometimes talks down to its target audience. Released March 12, this rare case of an Italo pic aimed at high schoolers seems set for a satisfactory domestic run, thanks to aggressive promo and a pulsating soundtrack, though it won’t likely rev up much biz elsewhere.
As a radio DJ starts a jivey running commentary in voiceover, Step (Riccardo Scamarcio) rides his souped-up motorbike and then headbutts a leather-jacketed member of his lowlife posse. Meanwhile, in a preppy all-girls classroom, Babi (Katy Louise Saunders) is shown stealthily text-messaging a Latin assignment to her best friend, Pallina (Maria Chiara Augenti).
Step and Babi soon intersect when the boys crash a party in Rome’s upper-crust Olgiata suburb. As bottles are smashed and hors d’oeuvres flung against the designer wallpaper, Step bullies Babi, who tosses a glass of bubbly in his face. He reacts by sticking her under a running shower.
Their relationship builds from this point, climaxing in a love-making scene in a vacant seaside castle, before a tragic third act twist. Along the way, there’s a vivid nighttime motorcycle race in which Babi rides shotgun behind a wheelie-popping maniac, and a revelatory moment in which Step lets out a dark secret.
Effective, understated turns by relative newcomers Scamarcio (“Best of Youth”) and British-Colombian expat Saunders (“A Journey Called Love”) make the most of the calculatedly conventional script. Pic is based on a more authentic feeling novel that has resonated with love-struck Italo teens.
Tech credits are topnotch, with lenser Manfredo Archinto and editor Fabrizio Rossetti steering clear of overslick music-vid visuals to give pic a more realistic feel. Soundtrack, which includes Brit trip-hop outfit Lamb and Californian rock band Grandaddy, is laced in nicely.