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Forever

The vow "Till death do us part" is stretched beyond its limits in helmer Alessandro di Robilant's "Forever," an elegant but unsatisfactory study of the power of love. Film boasts a terrific cast and stylish look that helps flesh out a simple story, which nevertheless disintegrates by curtain time.

The vow “Till death do us part” is stretched beyond its limits in helmer Alessandro di Robilant’s “Forever,” an elegant but unsatisfactory study of the power of love. Film boasts a terrific cast and stylish look that helps flesh out a simple story, which nevertheless disintegrates by curtain time. There’s Hollywood remake potential here — think Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart — if the female character were better drawn and the ending reworked. Pic opened strongly in late September, and still hovers just outside the top ten. Incurable romantics could make pic a modest niche success offshore, with more in ancillary.

Top lawyer Giovanni (Giancarlo Giannini) is riding high after winning a court case when he gets a call on his cell from g.f. Sara (Francesca Neri) telling him, “It’s over.” She refuses any contact, leaving him struggling to make sense of why he’s been unceremoniously dumped after four years.

Giovanni was married when the cool, elegant Sara seduced him at a party. Script wisely avoids dwelling on the breakup of Giovanni’s marriage and instead concentrates on his recollections of the affair with Sara and his breakdown. Sara’s fierce independence barely allowed Giovanni into her daily life, so when the abrupt call came, he had nothing but memories to hold on to.

Giovanni’s downward slide is quick: he collapses and is checked into a psychiatric hospital where Dr. Sergio Doddoli (Emilio Solfrizzi) tries to convince him that life goes on. Instead, Giovanni stops eating, and literally wills himself to die.

Giovanni’s death takes place nearly half way through the pic. Thereon, the focus switches to Sara’s p.o.v., though her motivations remain unclear and her character incomplete. Devastated by Giovanni’s death, she soon finds objects connected to him (a scarf, a book) in places she knows she didn’t leave them. Dr. Doddoli suggests the trauma is causing her memory blanks, but there’s also the possibility that Giovanni has in some way come back.

Leads are tops, with Giannini giving another standout performance. With his lined face and sad, puffy eyes, he movingly conveys not just the desperation but also the devastation of a man who feels his insides have been ripped out. The stunning, Armani-clad Neri (“Collateral Damage,” “Live Flesh”) gives her role as much depth as she can, but the script doesn’t help her explain the reasons for the cold shell that surrounds the frightened Sara.

Helmer Di Robilant handles the shifts back and forth in time with ease, and his compassion for the characters is undisguised. Scripter Costanzo, Italy’s favorite TV host, has major film credits under his belt, including Ettore Scola’s classic “A Special Day,” but 20 years away from the screen has rusted some of his power.

Tech credits are first rate, with special mention going to the beautiful production work of veteran designers Eva and Osvaldo Desideri.

Forever

Italy

Production: An 01 Distribution release of a Rodeo Drive production, in collaboration with RAI Cinema. Produced by Marco Poccioni, Marco Valsania. Executive producer, Paolo Venditti. Directed by Alessandro di Robilant. Screenplay, Maurizio Costanzo, Laura Sabatino.

Crew: Camera, (color) Maurizio Calvesi; editor, Roberto Missiroli; music, Pivio, Aldo De Scalzi; production designer, Eva and Osvaldo Desideri; costume designer, Carolina Olcese; sound (Dolby Digital), Candido Raini, Ivanandrea Menchinelli. Reviewed at Multisala Adriano, Rome, Oct. 23, 2003. Running time: 91 MIN. With: Giancarlo Giannini, Francesca Neri, Emilio Solfrizzi, Alberto Di Stasio, Daniela Scarlatti, Gea Lionello, Elisabetta Pellini, Simone Gandolfo, Giovanni Boncoddo, Sabina Vannucchi.

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