Commercial prospects are dim for Lucio Gaudino’s “First Light of Dawn,” a fitfully involving but tediously protracted drama about the reunion of two long-estranged brothers after their parents are killed for defying Mafia extortionists. Playing against expectations raised by the high-concept premise, Gaudino and scripter Nicola Molino mine the setup for subtle revelations of character, not bloody gestures of revenge. But despite the persuasive lead performances, “Dawn” fails to sustain any narrative momentum, and refuses to provide a satisfying payoff. Instead of ending, pic simply stops.
Belatedly learning of his parents’ deaths, Edo (Gianmarco Tognazzi), a successful engineer in northern Italy, makes a rare visit to the family’s hometown in Sicily. He seeks a reconciliation with Saro (Francesco Giuffrida), his younger, wheelchair-bound brother, who resents Edo for staying away so long. Early on, it’s made clear that, although Saro knows who pulled the trigger, neither brother is likely to seek retribution. Instead, siblings spend a great deal of time talking — sometimes nostalgically, sometimes argumentatively — about the pros and cons of living in a beautiful little hamlet where, unfortunately, Mafia killings are commonplace.