A decade of missed chances beguiles and rewards as this Italo-Russian romancer gently rolls along.

A decade of missed chances beguiles and rewards as “Ten Winters” gently rolls along. Though this Italo-Russian romancer gets off to a bumpy and improbable start, charming performances by leads Michele Riondino and Isabella Ragonese combine with a restrained, intelligent atmosphere to create an involving yarn that could hold some commercial prospects for arthouse distribs. Pic preemed in Venice’s Controcampo sidebar this fall and had a return engagement at the recent Rome fest. Italian release is set for December.

Story begins in a wintry 1999 as Camilla (Ragonese), a student of Slavic literature, leaves home to take up residence in a semi-derelict house in Venice. On the last leg of her journey — a ferry to her island — she’s spotted by a wannabe-comical would-be Romeo, Silvestro (Riondino).

Despite getting the brush-off, Silvestro follows Camilla to her home and manages to insinuate himself as a guest for the night. However, he fails in his gentle efforts to seduce her.

The next sequence begins a year later and, as their lives intersect across a decade, intertitles count off the years, always in the titular season. Silvestro dates a Russian interpreter who unwittingly brings prize student Camilla home as a guest. Later, Camilla flits off to Moscow for language enhancement and finds romance with an overbearing theater director — a fact Silvestro discovers for himself when he drops into Moscow unannounced to declare his love.

The near-misses continue as the friendship waxes and wanes. Valerio Mieli’s cool, detached helming keeps emotions at a distance, allowing auds to watch as they might observe a stranger’s behavior on a bus, but the two thesps’ seamless performances ensure they’ll be regarded with some affection by viewers.

Characters lack self-awareness — Silvestro may be gauche and immature, and Camilla restless and rudderless — but Mieli doesn’t judge them. Only once, late in the game, does the story move beyond its objective viewpoint.

Though the film is foremost an Italian production, the story could easily be transplanted to any number of locales. There’s no sense that Venice and Moscow are being milked for their picturesque qualities; they’re simply where the characters happen to be.

Tech credits are crisp.

Ten Winters

Italian, English, Russian dialogue

Production

A Centro Sperimentale Cinematografica Prod., RAI Cinema (Italy)/United Film Co. (Russia) production, in association with Comune di Roma, Regione Veneto, Citta di Venezia, Venice Film Commission, City of Moscow. (International sales: RAI Trade, Rome.) Produced by Roberto Bessi, Elisabetta Bruscolini. Directed by Valerio Mieli. Screenplay, Mieli, Davide Lantieri, Isabella Aguilar.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Marco Onorato; editor, Luigi Mearelli; music, Francesco De Luca, Alessandro Forti; production designer, Mauro Vanzati; sound (Dolby Digital), Guido Spizzico. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (competing), Oct. 18, 2009. (Also in Venice, Rome film festivals.) Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Isabella Ragonese, Michele Riondino, Glen Blackhall, Sergei Nikonenko, Liuba Zaizeva, Sergei Zhigunov.

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