Director / Screenwriter: Donato Rotunno. Luxembourg / Belgium / Germany / Italy. 2020. 99 min.
Io Sto Bene transforms a walk in the past into a pleasant and discreet melodrama. Writer-director Donato Rotunno mixes past and present to retrace the life of an Italian migrant in Luxembourg. Parallels to the fate of modern migrants are left implicit in a narrative that favors emotional peaks and valleys over social commentary. Rotunno brings a lot of charm to a story that could help draw an older population to what often seems like a pleasantly old-fashioned affair. The selection of the film as Luxembourg candidate for the Oscars could give it new impetus.
The heart of Io Sto Bene lies in the scrapbooking events of everyday life
Rotunno’s third feature film finds him venturing into the kind of territory that might once have attracted Ettore Scola or the Taviani brothers. In the late 1960s, we meet Antonio (Alessio Lapice) and his cousins ââVito (Vittorio Nastri) and Giuseppe (Maziar Firouzi) as they leave their family and beloved Italy in search of a use. The cousins ââleave for Belgium while Antonio will settle in Luxembourg, working as a mason. They are full of hopes and dreams, with the intention of staying a few months or a year at most to make a fortune and then return home.
Next we see an elderly Antonio (now played by Renato Carpentieri). Recently widowed, he is about to leave his comfortable apartment to move into a retirement home. Significant portions of the film are then devoted to flashbacks filling in the blanks of his life.
A second, smaller part of the story focuses on Leo (Sara Serraiocco), a young DJ who recently split from her boyfriend and lost her job. Like Antonio a long time ago, she is an Italian far from home who is struggling to rebuild a life in Luxembourg. A chance meeting between them arouses a paternalistic concern in Antonio, who sees in his reflections on himself and his cousins ââhalf a century earlier. There is a sense of history repeating itself.
The balance of the two stories tilts in favor of the past. An unexpected bond blossoms between old Antonio and Leo in the present as he finds a new purpose and she gets a safe haven. The struggles of young Antonio burn more fiercely, however. Initially, there were some attempts to resolve the problems of exile and the plight of the foreigner. Language is a barrier, guests think they can underpay Antonio with impunity, and homesickness exerts guilty pressure as his stay in Luxembourg is prolonged in permanent residence.
The heart of Io Sto Bene lies in the scrapbooking events of everyday life. Rotunno takes us through loyalties and betrayals, marriages and deaths, relationships and regrets with all the skill of a novelist. Its strength lies in never pulling too hard on the strings of the heart. The period setting is no excuse to splash contemporary pop hits on the soundtrack, indulge in eye-catching fashions, or howl the day’s events from a radio or TV in the background. . His approach is more calm and as underrated as some of the performances. A new mustache or a different haircut gently tells the story of the passing of the years and highlights how some people change very little in our minds.
The emotional core still remains what happens to Antonio and the life he led, especially his love for Mady (Marie Jung), their marriage and his role as a driving force in building a successful family business. But the two major female characters of Io Sto Bene feel underdeveloped. We lack a fuller understanding of Mady and her attraction to Antonio, and we also want to feel that Leo is more than a figure to trigger echoes of the past. Yet the gravely handsome Lapice is an endearing young Antonio, while Carpentieri invests his dapper, older incarnation in sweet warmth. The fact that Antonio leaves such an impression is a testament to both actors, and a further indication of the movie’s old-fashioned instincts.
Production companies: Tarantula Luxembourg, Tarantula Belgium, MaxMa Films, Vivo Film
International sales: MPM Premium, [email protected]
Photography: Jean-FranÃ§ois Hensgens
Editing: Mayas Veress
Graphic design: Marie Janezic
Music: Massimo Zamboni
Main actors: Renato Carpentieri, Sara Serraiocco, Alessio Lapice, Marie Jung