Family dramas can be among the most interesting and rewarding of all cinematic genres, if the story they tell is an engaging one, populated with figures that are recognisable and relatable, directed with freshness, and acted with spark. Sad to say, these are qualities that Euforia contains only in limited amounts. While nothing here is really bad, neither is it particularly memorable or inspiring.
Valeria Golino – a performer best known outside of her native Italy for prominent roles in Rain Man and Hot Shots! – has delivered her second feature behind the camera.
The consensus so far from those who have seen both appears to be that this follow-up effort is a disappointing step backward, but however it compares to Golino’s previous work as a director, Euforia, while it possesses visual polish and technical competence, lets down these accomplishments mainly due to an unimpressive screenplay (co-credited to Golino herself).
A tale that centres around two brothers of contrasting personalities, temperaments, interests, and visages – Riccardo Scamarcio’s Matteo (wealthy, vain, hedonistic), and Valerio Mastandrea’s Ettore (modest, sensible, hangdog) – and the unexpected impact that news of a terminal illness will have on their individual futures, there is also a gallery of supporting characters and plot diversions that drift in and out of the protagonists’ orbit, but the experience feels predominantly distracted, diluted, and disorganised, rather than a two-hour tapestry of credible humanity and fateful existence.
Both central performers do quite well under the circumstances, given what is being asked of them from scene to scene. Golino presents us with moments that are intermittently intriguing, amusing, or touching, but these are outnumbered by the stretches that inspire indifference at best and annoyance at worst.
Though Euforia comes to us fresh from the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard sidebar, it may be worth noting that the film failed to win a single prize, either from the jury in its section or from various bodies judging the likes of the FIPRESCI critics’ prize and the Queer Palm.
There is perhaps the seed of a potentially fruitful idea at the heart of Euforia – about the impact of a well-intentioned lie – but despite generally decent performances, plus globe-trotting locations presented with acceptably high production values and a widescreen aspect ratio, its ultimate impact hits closer to the level of a tele-movie, and an undistinguished one at that. The bottom line: don’t judge this film by its title.
Euforia screens as part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival, at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.
The Festival runs until October 14th.
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