It feels like I've seen a lot of relationship movies lately. In particular, I've seen a lot of films about how a relationship can shift after a couple has a baby, or about men freaking out about marriage or fatherhood, or about men who just don't really want to grow up. Very often those stories are told from a distinctly male perspective. Even Knocked Up, which I liked, painted the guys as just wanting to chill and have some fun, while the women were the ones who were responsible (or nagging, depending on your point of view). If this relationship paradigm in film is true for American films, it's even more so for Italian cinema, which is much more predominantly male than the film world in the US. So when I saw Riprendimi, a comedy about a broken relationship by Italian filmmaker Anna Negri, it was like a breath of fresh air.
Negri, who co-wrote the film with Giovanna Mori (who plays a marriage counselor in the film), takes us into the lives of Lucia (Alba Rohrwacher) and Giovanni (Marco Foschi) on the eve of their anniversary. Lucia has made a DVD for Giovanni that's basically a highlight reel of their entire relationship from her perspective, which is that everything is wonderful and just keeps getting better. When Giovanni comes home, however, it soon becomes clear that their anniversary is the last thing on his mind. He announces over their romantic dinner that he is leaving Lucia and their infant son Paulino. Lucia falls apart; Giovanni falls directly into the arms of a new woman, Michaela (Valentina Lodovini), a beautiful doctor, and immediately decides that this new relationship is everything that his relationship with Lucia is not.
There's another situation complicating matters: Giovanni's friends, Giorgio and Eros, are there filming the couple for a documentary on the lives of temp actors, and all the ugliness of the breakup is recorded for posterity. As they follow the separated couple around, though, both Giorgio and Eros find themselves increasingly drawn into the emotional drama being played out before them.
Negri uses Lucia's female friends to draw out other aspects of relationships between men and women. One friend is pregnant with her first child, and sees her own possible future in Giovanni's abandonment of Lucia and Paulino. Another hasn't found true love in a stable relationship, and feels love passing her by. Lucia's neighbor is a wreck after being abandoned by her husband, and would give anything in her desperation to have him back. Lucia herself goes through all the stages of grief following a breakup, with her friends both supporting her and commenting on her situation, all with Eros recording -- and watching -- from behind his camera.
Although this is a story about a broken relationship, there's as much comedy as tragedy in the tale. Much of the film is very funny, even when we're feeling the pain of Lucia's anguish. Negri gets some standout performances out of her cast, particularly Rohrwacher, who shines on screen, and Foschi, who somehow manages to lend just enough sympathy to Giovanni to keep him from being a one-dimensional ass. Shot on location in Rome, the film looks nice as well. Riprendimi would be a great pickup for arthouse distribution; I only hope that it doesn't get bought for an English remake starring a big name cast, because it's a really lovely film just as it is.