The trials and tribulations of attractive young Italians provide the photogenic subject for contempo comedy-drama "Drifters."

The trials and tribulations of attractive young Italians provide the photogenic subject for contempo comedy-drama “Drifters.” Based on Sandro Veronesi’s Rome-set novel, helmer Matteo Rovere’s sophomore effort benefits from its media-friendly depiction of a new social group, the titular gli sfiorati — just as long as no one remembers the book was actually published in 1990. Of more questionable value is the pic’s incest storyline, likely to be downplayed in Italo distributor Fandango’s marketing come the film’s spring release. Overseas, the sibling-lust angle might assist material that’s otherwise in danger of being too slight for successful export to foreign arthouses.

Handsome, 30-ish Mete (Andrea Bosca) has an apartment in Rome’s picturesque historical center, a stimulating (if unlikely) job as a handwriting analyst and an enviable, appropriately hedonistic social life. Less felicitously, his 17-year-old half-sister, Belinda (Miriam Giovanelli), to whom he’s inconveniently attracted, has just moved into his living room. As Mete’s father, Sergio (Massimo Popolizio), a soccer star-turned-sports pundit, belatedly prepares to marry Belinda’s mother, Virna (Spanish-Italian actress Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), the two half-siblings negotiate their problematic intimacy boundaries.

Written by Rovere, Laura Paolucci and Francesco Piccolo, the screenplay successfully juggles several elements, notably a funny subplot involving nutty man-eater Beatrice (Asia Argento, in a change-of-pace role that will earn her plenty more comedic castings). Meanwhile, a committed perf from Michele Riondino as Mete’s real-estate-agent buddy Damiano can’t disguise the stock-comedy aspect of this generic lothario character.

In this follow-up to his 2008 teen drama “Un gioco da ragazze,” Rovere succeeds in presenting sibling sex in a lighthearted context that never teeters into heavy issue-movie terrain; a framing device, which places the bulk of the action in the recent past, likewise helps auds accept what they might otherwise resist. However, the film’s exploration of the “drifters,” described by Mete’s fellow graphologist and pal Bruno (Claudio Santamaria) as “a new unforeseen category,” is less assured. This liquid, glancing form of existence, more an attitude than a specific demographic, probably won’t be challenging the likes of Generations X and Y for sociological supremacy.

Tech credits are pro. Andrea Farri’s score, confidently fusing orchestral and electronic elements, reps a major plus, and the sound mix is afforded some showily effective moments in one nightclub scene. Picture-postcard Rome locations do no harm, with Sergio and Virna’s wedding in particular affording a pleasant whiz around the city in a vintage convertible, Colosseum and all.

Drifters

Italy

Production

A Fandango production in collaboration with Rai Cinema. (International sales: Fandango Portobello, London.) Produced by Domenico Procacci. Directed by Matteo Rovere. Screenplay, Laura Paolucci, Francesco Piccolo, Rovere, based on the novel by Sandro Veronesi.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Vladan Radovic; editor, Giogio Franchini; music, Andrea Farri; production designer, Alessandro Vannucci; set decorator, Cristina Del Zotto; costume designer, Monica Celeste; sound (Dolby Digital), Maricetta Lombardo; supervising sound editor, Gianluca Carbonelli; re-recording mixer, Marco Cappolecchia; visual effects supervisor, Rodolfo Migliari; line producer, Ivan Fiorini; assistant director, Matteo Albano; casting, Francesca Borromeo. Reviewed at London Film Festival (Cinema Europa), Oct. 26, 2011. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Andrea Bosca, Miriam Giovanelli, Claudio Santamaria, Michele Riondino, Asia Argento, Massimo Popolizio, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon.

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