There’s an awful lot of yelling in “Our Life,” Daniele Luchetti’s poorly reasoned Cannes competish entry about an avaricious construction worker exhibiting the usual prejudices associated with the working class. While the protag gets redemption from the script, thinking auds will be less forgiving, largely because Luchetti and his collaborators don’t bother with the inconveniences of psychology and plot follow-through. Italo auds are likely to breathe some life into late-spring B.O. coffers, though apart from scattered Euro screens it’s unlikely others will follow suit.
Luchetti tries hard to present a clear-eyed portrait of a flawed man, warts and all, but the guy in question has little to recommend him to anyone other than child welfare. Claudio (Elio Germano) works construction on the outskirts of Rome. He and wife Elena (Isabella Ragonese) enjoy frequent romps in the sack — two kids and a third on the way haven’t dampened their libidos.
Their bliss doesn’t last: Elena dies in childbirth, leading to a bizarrely over-the-top funeral scene in which Claudio screams the lyrics to their favorite song (Vasco Rossi’s already shouted “Anima fragile”). Trauma doesn’t linger for either Claudio or his two young sons: He’s more caught up in making a buck. Sometime earlier he stumbled upon the body of an undocumented Romanian security guard half-buried in a shaft he was closing up for boss Porcari (Giorgio Colangeli). Now he blackmails Porcari into giving him the subcontract for a building that needs to be constructed in a hurry.
Borrowing more than $60,000 from friendly pusher/pimp neighbor Ari (Luca Zingaretti), Claudio hires a bunch of illegal workers to finish the job, but money runs out, deadlines approach and desperation (an emotion Germano tends to overplay) starts to set in. The arrival of the dead Romanian’s ex-wife Gabriela (Alina Madalina Berzunteanu) and her son Andrei (Marius Ignat) looking for his father tweaks a minor guilty chord, though it’s odd how quickly Claudio integrates them into his circle when he doesn’t really feel he did anything wrong by not reporting the death.
The weak script is keen to portray Italians as overly focused on scamming under-the-table lucre, but in its highly questionable desire to find a happy ending, it plays down any true social criticism. Claudio’s misogyny and racial prejudices are seen as simply part of his class background. Luchetti and his regular scripters strenuously avoid even the hint of passing judgment, and yet giving Claudio a feel-good finale just seems like a copout, as does the peculiar near-absence of any psychological repercussions from Elena’s death.
This need for an upbeat gloss over material demanding something more profound seems to have become a hallmark of Luchetti’s middle period (the superior “My Brother Is an Only Child” suffered from a similar problem). But where his direction of Germano in that pic took interesting advantage of the talented thesp’s versatility, here he’s brought to the fore the shrillest aspects of the actor’s onscreen personality. Raoul Bova is oddly cast as Claudio’s girl-shy older brother Piero, though, fortunately, an underused Stefania Montorsi leaves a mark as their controlling sister, Loredana.
Visuals try hard to maintain an assertive liveliness, with a heavy reliance on handheld shots that do their best to underline Luchetti’s perception of a breezy working-class world. Early musical choices, with their reggae-style beats, intriguingly seem to work against the production of easy tears, but the rush toward simplistic closure soon finds accompaniment in the strains of Franco Piersanti’s overreaching tunes.