Italian director Gianni Amelio returns to the fray with the hugely disappointing L’intrepido (A Lonely Hero, 2013), a hopelessly drab character study and alleged social satire. Celebrated comic actor Antonio Albanese plays Antonio, a Milanese Jack of all trades who subs for other workers when they need a few hours (or, indeed, a day off). One morning he can be found driving a tram, the next working the fish market, or in construction, or in a machine shop He’s a fast learner and his gouty Mafioso fixer keeps the work rolling in – though he isn’t quite as quick with paying Antonio his wages.
Antonio is divorced from his wife but has a loving son, Ivo (Gabriele Rendina), a saxophonist who’s struggling with his musical career between the conservatory and nightclub gigs. Antonio also connects with a young woman, Lucia (Livia Rossi) – whom he meets in an exam and then later cleaning the San Siro football stadium – and begins to feel old romantic sentiments stirring. The idea of someone filling in for people’s jobs – a ‘rimpiazzo‘, literally a ‘replacement’ – has a dash of magical realism to it. Sadly, as far as Amelio’s latest is concerned, that’s pretty much the end of both the magic and the realism, whilst any opportunity for satire is squandered by the complete unreality of the world Antonio inhabits.
Although a wintry Milan is shot pleasantly, aside from Antonio there are no other fully realised characters. We see immigrants working alongside our hero, but they’re offered no voice other than a mildly racist lesson in Italian. Antonio himself ought to be likeable, and may have been more endearing if the film wasn’t so preoccupied with forcing us to care for him. He’s a perfect father/friend/neighbour/worker with a sympathetic face and a quiet stoicism – which the film’s English title underlines. However, like an over-egged pudding, he’s entirely lacking in detail and edge. Add to this L’intrepido’s inept plotting, which throws in the occasional melodramatic twist like a kick to start a stalled motor, and the films putters along, throwing in one cliché after another.
Even more disappointing is that fact that Albanese’s undoubted comic skillset feels absent here; just in case (presumably) it begins to infringe upon his necessary affability. The economic crisis has hit Italy hard and the plight of the ‘precari‘ (people with chronic job insecurity) is a worthy subject, but Amelio’s film seems to suggest that the young are selfish moaners and should be left to learn from an older generation who simply rolled up their sleeves and got on with it. Perhaps, but L’intrepido still leaves you wishing for it to be replaced by something much, much better.
The 57th BFI London Film Festival takes place from 9-20 October, 2013. For more of our LFF 2013 coverage, simply follow this link.