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Case Number 09928

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Don't Move

Wellspring Media // 2004 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // August 30th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Brendan Babish would like to enter this film as further evidence to why women should never let strange men use their phone.

The Charge

The story of a love affair between two desperate people.

Opening Statement

Don't Move is co-written, directed and starring Italian actor Sergio Castellitto. In fact, Castellitto co-wrote the script with Margaret Mazzantini, who penned the book this movie is adapted from. Talk about a labor of love.

Facts of the Case

Timoteo is a successful middle-aged doctor in Rome whose daughter is seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. While the girl goes through potentially life-saving surgery, Timoteo helplessly paces outside her operating room. In his aggrieved state, he reflects back on an affair he had the year before his daughter was born.

When his car had broken down on the outskirts of town, the feckless Italia (Penelope Cruz, looking ghoulish in an overzealous attempt to neutralize her natural beauty) offers him the use of her phone. Soon after letting him in her house, Timoteo brutally rapes her. Later, wracked by guilt, he returns to Italia with the intention of apologizing, but instead sodomizes her. Timoteo begins seeing Italia regularly; he leaves her money and she cooks him meals. After accidentally impregnating her, Timoteo realizes he is in love. He is prepared to leave his wife, but then discovers that she too is pregnant. Now, it's decision time.

The Evidence

At its essence, Don't Move is a romance. Though there is the motorcycle crash, and plenty of domestic drama between Timoteo and his wife, this is a chronicle of ill-fated love. The problem is—and call me hopelessly traditional if you must—I had difficulty imagining true love springing from a brutal rape. Sure, if romance ever does flower from a sexual violation it would happen in Europe—but probably in France or Russia, not Italy. However, though Timoteo and Italia's relationship is absolutely unfathomable, somehow Don't Move still manages to captivate.

I should note that it is not only their initial meeting that rankles. As Don't Move progresses, and true, demonstrative affection occurs between Timoteo and Italia, their relationship becomes only further inexplicable. Italia is uneducated, rather inarticulate and lives in a squalid cabin left standing amidst abandoned high-rise buildings. Of course, this might not matter so much if Italia looked like Penelope Cruz. But Castellitto made the ill-advised decision to adorn Cruz with dark make-up, tacky highlights and a wide gap between her teeth. The end result is that she looks like she is heading to a Halloween party, minus the broom and pointy hat. By putting on the ugly with such aplomb Castellitto has us scratching our heads as to why a successful doctor with a beautiful wife would choose such a homely lowlife to elope with.

Still, despite these confounding concerns, Don't Move still manages to entice in other ways. In particular, the film's plot, with the parallel stories of the young motorcycle victim and doomed affair, is largely effective. As one would imagine from an Italian film, the raw horror and passion these events elicit are on full display, with none of that stiff upper lip apathy exhibited in British melodramas.

What ends up saving the picture is the passionate acting from the entire cast. Castellito, who resembles an Italian Gabriel Byrne, infuses Timoteo with a perfect mix of middle-age ennui and juvenile passion so that we believe in his love for Italia, even if we cannot understand it. While many actresses seem to receive plaudits for simply agreeing to look unglamorous, Cruz's performance as Italia is spot-on, if misguided. That is to say, she seems perfectly believable as an unhinged squatter, though I think the movie would have been better served if Italia could have exhibited more humor or compassion or anything to make her more endearing. Still, it is not surprising that both Castellito and Cruz took home Italian Academy Awards, for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively.

The movie is also greatly aided by the many beautiful locations Italy has to offer. Castellito takes full advantage of his photogenic country, from the scenic vistas to the claustrophobic subway tunnels. Like the films of Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run, The Princess and the Warrior), Castellitto has created a movie is simply a marvel to look at.

Ultimately, Don't Move proves to be a satisfying film that nonetheless proves rankling for what it could have been. It is recommended, especially for fans of contemporary European cinema, but it is best not to delve to deeply into character motivation.

Wellspring Media has put together a tidy little package for the Don't Move DVD. First and foremost, the colors on this transfer are sharp and clear and fully convey Castellitto's beautiful imagery. You will not be disappointed with this transfer. There are also a few nice extras. By far the most interesting is novelist Margaret Mazzantini's reflections on the film. We hear her—over a montage of scenes from the film—reading from a poetic essay that details her experience writing the novel, her love for her husband, and the sometimes torturous labor involved in adapting her work. It is a moving tribute to the movie and her husband, and will certainly be cherished by admirers of the film. There are also three brief screen tests with Penelope Cruz, which may have some interest for aspiring actors. Lastly, there is what is tantalizingly labeled "Unrated Deleted Scenes." Unfortunately, there is actually only one scene, and it consists of a brief, passionless session of coitus between Timoteo and his wife. Don't get your hopes up.

Closing Statement

Don't Move is a beautiful movie filled with passionate drama and strong performances from the entire cast. Unfortunately, much of the character's motivations are wholly absent and this diminishes what is an otherwise brilliant film.

The Verdict

Guilty for squeezing romance out of a relationship that should, by all reasonable calculations, be dry. Still, a fine effort on nearly all other fronts, so sentencing is stayed and Don't Move is free to go.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 95
Extras: 80
Acting: 93
Story: 82
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile

Studio: Wellspring Media
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
• English
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Foreign
• Romance

Distinguishing Marks

• "Backstage: Behind-the-Scenes" Featurette
• Unrated Deleted Scenes
• Penelope Cruz Screen Test
• Margaret Mazzantini: A Writer's Reflections


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• Official Site

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