You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The First Day of Winter

Austere effort by scribe-helmer Mirko Locatelli zooms in on a meek geek-turned-browbeater who forces a closeted classmate to blanket the school in tell-all graffiti.

With: Mattia De Gasparis, Michela Cova, Andrea Semeghini, Alberto Gerundo, Teresa Patrignani, Giuseppe Cederna.

A permanent marker is mightier than the sword in “The First Day of Winter,” a tiny Italian neorealist drama that impresses despite its numerous shortcomings. Austere effort by scribe-helmer Mirko Locatelli zooms in on a meek geek-turned-browbeater who threatens a closeted classmate that he’ll blanket the school in tell-all graffiti. Carefully followed-through aesthetic and provocative yet subdued treatment of an Italo high school’s eat-or-be-eaten mentality should get it some play beyond gay fests and national showcases.

As in Locatelli’s “Come prima,” a boy in crisis is at the center of this naturalistic exercise in teen misery. In a small village in the Milan region, gawky Valerio (Mattia De Gasparis, from “Come prima”) tries to stay afloat at school and during swim practice. In the changing rooms, he is ribbed by one of his swim mates for a lingering look, which sends Valerio’s defense system into overdrive and turns him from a victim into a bully.

Valerio’s weapon: a steamy shower scene he’s witnessed between hunky Dani (Alberto Gerundo) and fey Matteo (Andrea Semeghini), two fellow swimmers. The latter becomes the victim of Valerio’s bullying and blackmailing, which quickly get out of hand.

Pic balances Valerio’s cruel behavior at school with his decidedly normal life at home with working-class mom (Teresa Patrignani) and kid sister (Michela Cova). Dual-track narrative humanizes Valerio and shows that his nasty streak stays largely confined to the moments with his peers.

Unusually, pic focuses on the bully rather than the bullied, and also refuses to pin down the protag’s own sexuality. Valerio’s motivations for his actions are about as clear as those of the kids in Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant,” to which the film pays homage in a tracking shot. Part of “First Day’s” appeal is that it prefers ellipses to predigested explanations, though Locatelli overdoes that here; a bit more info would have given the tragic closing scenes more heft.

The pic thankfully refrains from sexualizing any of its characters, focusing instead on power relations among teens and the daily effort required to simply grow up. Ugo Carlevaro’s smudgy, penumbral lensing reinforces the film’s naturalistic approach.

Like Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain,” De Gasparis persuasively mumbles his way through the dialogue, while Semeghini convinces as the intimidated teen. Other nonpros and extras are less convincing, at times draining the story of dramatic momentum.

The First Day of Winter


Production: An Officina Film presentation and production, in association with Deneb Media. (International sales: Officina, Milan.) Produced by Mirko Locatelli, Giuditta Tarantelli. Directed, edited by Mirko Locatelli. Screenplay, Locatelli, Giuditta Tarantelli.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Ugo Carlevaro; music, Giovanni Sollima; production designer, Gian Antonio Fusar Poli; sound, Brigitta Pasquadibisceglie; assistant director, Andrea Paganini. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 3, 2008. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Mattia De Gasparis, Michela Cova, Andrea Semeghini, Alberto Gerundo, Teresa Patrignani, Giuseppe Cederna.

More Film

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi displays

    Narendra Modi Wins New Mandate in Indian Election and Divides the Film Industry

    India has returned the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance coalition to power for a second term, with a huge mandate. In doing so, it polarized the film industry. The NDA won 351 seats out of a total of 542. The biggest democratic exercise in the world, more than 600 million Indians voted across six weeks. [...]

  • Director Dean DeBlois and online game

    'Dragon' Director Dean DeBlois and PUBG's CH Kim to Keynote 2019 VIEW Conference

    Dean DeBlois, director and executive producer of DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” and PUBG Corporation CEO CH Kim are the first keynote speakers announced for the 2019 VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy, in October. Since it began 12 years ago, VIEW, which stands for Virtual Interactive Emerging World, has continually [...]

  • 'The Cordillera of Dreams' Review: Poetic

    Cannes Film Review: 'The Cordillera of Dreams'

    Rounding out his sublimely meditative, deeply personal documentary-essay trilogy on time, memory and the relationship of Chile’s breathtaking landscapes to its troubled human history, Patricio Guzmán delivers “The Cordillera of Dreams,” a haunting and allusive exploration of the cultural impact of the country’s most spectacular geological feature: its snowcapped mountain spine. Coming after the exploration [...]

  • Ari Emanuel Endeavor

    Endeavor IPO Filing Offers Details of Company's Financials, Leadership Pay Packages

    Endeavor’s IPO filing Thursday offers a hard look at the company’s financial performance during the past three years during a period of rapid growth for the company that’s home to UFC, WME, Professional Bull Riders and a clutch of other assets. Endeavor is generating solid free cash flow from operations and healthy adjusted earnings for [...]

  • Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala

    Inside amfAR's Cannes Gala: Mariah Carey, Kendall Jenner and Tiffany Trump

    Kendall Jenner caused a commotion when she arrived. Tiffany Trump went unrecognized until a member of the press pointed her out as she made her way down the carpet. And Mariah Carey flew in to perform a couple of songs. Welcome to this year’s AmfAR Gala Cannes, the AIDS organization’s annual — and largest — [...]

  • 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo' Review: Abdellatif

    Cannes Film Review: 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo'

    A simple but somehow atypical shot opens Abdellatif Kechiche’s new film: a serene closeup of a young woman’s face, as seen through the camera lens of Amir, a budding photographer still finding his perspective. Her expression is ambiguously tranquil, her long hair lightly rustled by a humid breeze, all softly lit by a sinking afternoon [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content