×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Question of the Heart

The tale of the unlikely friendship between a working-class mechanic and a film industry windbag brought together by heart attacks.

With:
With: Antonio Albanese, Kim Rossi Stuart, Micaela Ramazzotti, Francesca Inaudi, Andrea Calligari, Nelsi Xhemalaj, Chiara Noschese, Paolo Villaggio, Stefania Sandrelli, Carlo Verdone, Paolo Virzi, Paolo Sorrentino, Daniele Lucchetti, Adriano Apra.

Three top-notch thesps deliver the goods in “A Question of the Heart,” helmer Francesca Archibugi’s performance-driven tale of the unlikely friendship between a working-class mechanic and a film industry windbag brought together by heart attacks. It’s a pleasant sentimental comedy, largely reliant on the players’ personalities to create the desired poignancy, which means any grating characteristics temper sympathies. With the right casting, remake potential looms large. Opening weekend in mid-April brought pic to No. 3 at the box office, taking in a modest $951,000.

Alberto (Antonio Albanese) and Angelo (Kim Rossi Stuart) find themselves in adjacent beds in the cardiac unit of a Roman hospital. Garage owner Angelo was rushed there after a heart attack, while scripter Alberto checked himself in after complaining of chest pains. Latter is a nonstop joker, covering his empty home life and inner turmoil with a gregariousness that wins over the impressionable Angelo, whose medical condition is significantly worse than Alberto’s.

Revelling in shared adolescent behavior, the two men continue to see each other despite their worlds being miles (literally) apart. Angelo’s pregnant wife Rossana (Micaela Ramazzotti, terrific) doesn’t understand why her husband is so keen to push Alberto onto the family, and she resists his increased presence in their lives. However, as Angelo’s condition deteriorates and his preoccupations increase, it’s clear to the audience he’s ensuring his family will be emotionally cared for after his death.

While the story’s bare bones are straightforward, Archibugi gives it flavor by playing with class perceptions. Angelo is a self-made man — a prole still living in a working-class district (Rome’s Pigneto) who owns several properties, including a weekend home. A loving husband and father, he’s comfortable in his own skin, unlike Alberto, who can’t sustain a relationship and doesn’t know what friendship is until Angelo comes along.

Albanese attacks Alberto’s braggadocio nature with gusto, though it’s Rossi Stuart’s quieter, deeper Angelo who attracts sympathy. However, the real standout among the cast is Ramazzotti as Angelo’s wife: As the slutty friend in “Her Whole Life Ahead of Her” she made a strong impression, but here she proves she has depth and range.

Archibugi obviously recognizes the thesp’s power. A beautifully shot sequence in which Rossana’s concern grows as she searches for her husband through home, cafe and environs works as a model on how to build a scene as well as how to hold the screen with modulated acting.

But Archibugi seems not to always trust this kind of sustained scenario: An injudicious interruption during a moment when Alberto has a heart-to-heart with Angelo’s young son, Airton (Andrea Calligari), spoils the impact. Elsewhere, the helmer shakes things up with inserted scenes, such as Alberto visiting his shrink (Adriano Apra), or having sex with his nurse (Chiara Noschese), that act as playful, quick breaks — almost like flashes of possibilities rather than reality.

Ace d.p. Fabio Zamarion (“The Unknown”) lenses these brief shots with monochromatic, saturated tones that nicely contrast with pic’s overall cooler look. A who’s-who of Italo screen personalities, from Paolo Sorrentino to Stefania Sandrelli, make brief appearances as Alberto’s industry friends visiting him in the hospital.

A Question of the Heart

Italy

Production: An 01 Distribution release of a RAI Cinema, Cattleya presentation of a Cattleya, RAI Cinema, Cinemello production. Produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini, Marco Chimenz, Guido De Laurentiis. Executive producer, Gina Gardini. Directed, written by Francesca Archibugi, loosely based on the novel by Umberto Contarello.

Crew: Camera (color), Fabio Zamarion; editor, Patrizio Marone; music, Battista Lena; production designer, Alessandro Vannucci; costume designer, Alessandro Lai; sound (Dolby Digital), Alessandro Zanon, Simone Carnesecchi; assistant director, Elisabetta Boni; casting, Gianluca Greco. Reviewed at Cinema Quattro Fontane, Rome, April 20, 2009. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: With: Antonio Albanese, Kim Rossi Stuart, Micaela Ramazzotti, Francesca Inaudi, Andrea Calligari, Nelsi Xhemalaj, Chiara Noschese, Paolo Villaggio, Stefania Sandrelli, Carlo Verdone, Paolo Virzi, Paolo Sorrentino, Daniele Lucchetti, Adriano Apra.

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    John Singleton, the two-time Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as “mild.” According to TMZ, which first broke the news, [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content