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The Days of Abandonment

Margarita Buy brings one of her finest performances to "The Days of Abandonment," but apart from her sensitivity, this overly familiar drama offers little real insight into the suffering of a wife whose husband suddenly leaves her for a younger woman.

With:
Olga - Margarita Buy Mario - Luca Zingaretti Damian - Goran Bregovic

Margarita Buy brings one of her finest performances to “The Days of Abandonment,” but apart from her sensitivity, this overly familiar drama offers little real insight into the suffering of a wife whose husband suddenly leaves her for a younger woman. Returning to the personal territory of female angst he explored in “The Soul Keeper,” Italian helmer Roberto Faenza seems at a loss for images in his screen version of Elena Ferrante’s novel. On the other hand, film’s simplicity, recognizable characters and television-ready cast should give it a strong push on big and small domestic screens, the market for which it was designed.

The attractive, 40-ish Olga (Buy) believes she has a solid relationship with her successful engineer-husband Mario (Luca Zingaretti), even toying with the idea of having a third child. So it’s like a bolt from the blue when he announces he’s moving out because he feels his life lacks meaning and he needs to be alone.

Olga is so startled it takes her several scenes to realize he’s dumped her for another woman. As her young son and daughter look on helplessly, she passes from denial to depression, blaming herself for being abandoned.

When she discovers the new girlfriend (Gaia Bermani Amaral) is one of his students, she creates a memorable scene that severs their connection for good. Life loses meaning for her. To her frightened eyes, a homeless woman (Alessia Goria) seems to foretell her own dreadful future.

Spiralling into a full-fledged nervous breakdown, Olga spurns the help of her friends and shuts out the nice foreign musician (played by real-life composer Goran Bregovic) who lives downstairs and obviously adores her. Things reach rock bottom on New Year’s Eve; faced with a sick child, a poisoned dog, broken phones and a jammed front door, Olga falls to pieces. In the final act, however, she pulls through the crisis and gets her act together in time for an improbable happy ending.

This is more or less a one-woman show, and Buy rises to the occasion with surprising force. Famous for her roles as a neurotic romantic partner, here she goes deeper into the role to show how a severe disappointment in love can destroy a woman’s self-esteem and her sense of femininity.

Zingaretti, a popular TV star who played the anti-Mafia priest in Faenza’s last film, “Come Into the Light,” has little room to maneuver as her selfish, caddish mate. He gives his villainy a chilling, everyman face when he finally confesses he just stopped loving her, voila!

Though awkwardly cast as the rejected neighbor who patiently waits, Bregovic (who composed the film’s very listenable, slightly overused score) reveals his true worth when he turns up on stage as a famous concert musician — thus raising some unintentional questions about Olga’s values in men. Viewers who have suffered with her up to this point are unlikely, however, to worry about such moral fine points.

Faenza, who has adapted many novels to the screen, falls back too often on an intrusive voiceover of the type, “Mama was right: Women without love die while they’re still alive” and “I had to react, get back my zest for life.” One would have liked to see more through the eyes of the camera and make one’s own judgments.

The Days of Abandonment

Italy

Production: A Medusa release of a Medusa Film/Jean Vigo Italia production. (International sales: Adriana Chiesa Enterprises, Rome.) Produced by Elda Ferri. Directed by Roberto Faenza. Screenplay, Faenza in collaboration with Gianni Arduini, Cristiana Del Bello, Diego De Silva, Dino Gentili, Filippo Gentili, Lella Ravasi, Anna Redi, based on a novel by Elena Ferrante.

Crew: Camera (color), Maurizio Calvesi; editor, Massimo Fiocchi; music, Goran Bregovic; production designer, Davide Bassan; costume designer, Alfonsina Lettieri; sound (Dolby Digital), Mario Dallimonti. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (competing), Sept. 6, 2005. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: Olga - Margarita Buy Mario - Luca Zingaretti Damian - Goran BregovicWith: Alessia Goria, Gea Lionello, Gaia Bermani Amaral, Sara Santostasi, Simone Della Croce.

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