101 minutes

Contemporary Italian cinema remains thoroughly haunted by its post-WWII “golden era” of comedy, melodrama and auteur film, an era lost in a speedy decadence from which national cinema has taken quite a lot of time to get back up on its two feet. The mere presence of said haunting is enough to stunt any honest attempts at putting a little bit of order in the house. 

     This is where La Nostra Vita comes in, as Daniele Luchetti's controlled melodrama of quiet working-class tragedies and victories manages to update those early classics without surrendering to soggy clichés, effete aesthetics or small-screen convention. A mainstream veteran, mr. Luchetti injects instead a strong sense of edginess by shooting mostly handheld and focussing his camera on the faces of its cast, giving the film the feel and rhythms of a ride-along through the life of Roman builder Claudio (Elio Germano). Heartbroken after his wife unexpectedly dies in childbirth, Claudio is left with three young children to take care of and decides to work himself hard to make money to give them a better life. 

     Scripted by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli (current go-to guys for well-crafted melodrama since Marco Tullio Giordana's superb La Meglia Gioventù), La Nostra Vita does suffer from some by-the-book, rote narrative choices. But they are transfigured by mr. Luchetti's smart handling, always attentive to the stellar work of an ensemble cast that does wonders with what little they're given (no need to go further than Stefania Montorsi, whose couple of scenes say all that needs to be said about Claudio's sister). The key player, here, is Elio Germano, whose indelible performance as Claudio earned him best actor at Cannes 2010 and is a stunning show of strength that anchors the entire movie, never falling into the histrionics that might lure a lesser actor, returning mr. Luchetti's unflinching gaze with equal steeliness. Impressively dry and smart, it's a solid example of how classic genre tropes can be updated for our days.   

Starring Elio Germano, Raoul Bova, Isabella Ragonese, Luca Zingaretti, Stefania Montorsi, Giorgio Colangeli, Alina Madalina Berzunteanu, Marius Ignat, Ahmed Hafiene, Awa Ly, Emiliano Campagnola.
     Directed by Daniele Luchetti; produced by Riccardo Tozzi, Giovanni Stabilini, Marco Chimenz; written by Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli, mr. Luchetti; music by Franco Piersanti; director of photography (processing by Technicolor), Claudio Collepiccolo; production designer, Giancarlo Basili; costume designer, Maria Rita Barbera; film editor, Mirco Garrone.
     A Cattleya/Raicinema presentation of a Cattleya production in co-production with Babe Films, in collaboration with Raicinema, with the support of the Office for Cinema of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Goods and Activities. (Italian distributor, 01 Distribution. World sales, Celluloid Dreams.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 12 (Lisbon), August 29th 2011. 


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