A self-absorbed, low-rent wheeler-dealer tries to motivate his gumptionless son in Bonifacio Angius’ monotonous drama “Perfidia.” Set in the dullest outskirts of the Sardinian city of Sassari, the pic is meant as a comment on distanced father-son relationships and, even more, on Italy’s disastrous socioeconomic climate, in which young people into their 30s have little motivation to succeed. Unfortunately, 55 minutes in, the father has a stroke and out goes the only interesting character in the picture, with nothing to fill the vacuum. Viewer attention will slide off like grease on Teflon, leaving little doubt that “Perfidia” won’t be traveling far.
Peppino (stage thesp Mario Olivieri) unexpectedly becomes a widower and finds he’s meant to interact with the son he’s largely ignored, Angelo (Stefano Deffenu). Although they’ve always lived together, Peppino hasn’t a clue about his offspring: He gets his age wrong (Angelo is 35), is unaware of his likes or dislikes (in truth, he doesn’t have any), and doesn’t know that the only job his son ever had was as a restaurant dishwasher.
Angelo isn’t much interested in doing anything anyway. He spends his time sitting with similar losers at the local bar, being nasty to anyone in their circle who dares to think he can achieve something. By contrast, Peppino is perpetually looking for angles and knows how to play politics: He acts as a big shot among those socially below him, and turns sycophant with those above. He gets Angelo a job in construction, but it doesn’t last, and then, just before winning a seat as councilman (only because he has the right connections), Peppino has a stroke that leaves him paralyzed and mute.
This could be the moment for Angelo to get out of his father’s shadow, but he’s got no motivation. At least he succeeds in asking a college coed (Noemi Medas) on a date, but he’s clueless about how to behave, and while she’s not exactly a social star herself, she knows this guy’s not playing with a full deck.
At the pic’s start, Angelo serves as narrator, saying that if you’re good, Jesus loves you, but if you’re bad, he sends the devil. He’s seen a painting of the devil, and decides Satan doesn’t look so unpleasant. It’s an intriguing beginning, offering all sorts of angles that Angius barely explores; the house radio is set to the Catholic station Radio Maria, and there’s a lot of overheard broadcasts about hell and the Madonna, yet despite the religious content, “Perfidia” does little with the idea of the Church as contributor to a stymied life. Likewise, Angelo’s absence of drive doesn’t make him representative of Italian youth today — in reality, most are interested in making a life for themselves but feel thwarted, whereas Angelo is so wet and spineless, it’s a miracle he can choose what underwear to put on in the morning.
Olivieri provides the pic’s sole source of energy, nailing a character who’s spent his life playing his acquaintances to get slightly ahead of the next guy. By contrast, the script fails to make Angelo a character worthy of sympathy let alone viewer curiosity, and Deffenu’s near-constant downcast gaze is as dreary as the locale. Angelo’s bar has a Lynchian feel, but otherwise the visuals tend to emphasize a gray, overcast world. Carlo Doneddu’s undifferentiated piano score maintains the tedious tone.