“Bernardo Bertolucci’s first film since 2003’s The Dreamers, Me and You, is so pleasantly inconsequential that it feels like a warm-up exercise,” writes Mike D’Angelo at the AV Club. “I hadn’t known until now that Bertolucci has been inactive all these years because he can no longer walk, and it makes perfect sense that he’d choose, for his first movie directed from a wheelchair, a story mostly confined to a single room…. Bertolucci still knows his way around a camera, but there’s a terminal slightness to the adventure that makes it feel like an unusually adult after-school special. The good news is that Bertolucci says he’s already prepping his next film. Good to have him back.”
The set-up, courtesy of Peter Bradshaw, who gives the film three out of five stars in the Guardian: “Lorenzo, played by Jacopo Olmo Antinori, is a disturbed 14-year-old boy who hates school, and whose mother Arianna (Sonia Bergamasco) sends him to a psychotherapist. Mother and son lunch together at restaurants, where Lorenzo speculates, inappropriately, as to whether other people there think they are a couple, and asks her what they should do to repopulate the Earth if they were the only two people left after some sort of apocalyptic catastrophe. Sonia is relieved when Lorenzo shows an interest in going on a week’s ski-ing trip organized by his school—but instead of getting on the bus, Lorenzo sneaks back and hides out in the house’s manky basement to which he has the separate entrance key, glad of the chance to be on his own for a week. But he is horrified when his twentysomething half-sister, Olivia (Tea Falco) shows up, needing a place to stay. Falco’s Olivia fascinates and horrifies Lorenzo with her attitude problem, her smack addiction, her artistic aspirations, and some dark hints about her (and Lorenzo’s) father.”
“Bertolucci explores the strange, subterranean realm of these enfants terribles with characteristic visual flair,” writes Geoff Andrew in a dispatch to Sight & Sound: “décor, costumes, color and camera movements combine to create a faintly feverish atmosphere. Interestingly, however, the mise en scène is not especially baroque; though expressive, it’s carefully controlled so that the style suits the parameters of the story. A modest film, then, but enjoyably so: the two lead turns are spot-on, and the use of a reworded Italian version of ‘Space Oddity’ (but still sung by Bowie) deftly captures not only the dynamics of the pair’s brief encounter but the aching, fragile hopes of a boy in need of a friend.”
In the Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney notes that the screenplay “was adapted from the novel of the same title (originally Io e Te) by Italian author Niccolo Ammaniti, best known internationally for the more dramatically robust 2003 Gabriele Salvatores feature, I’m Not Scared. But based on the evidence of what’s onscreen here, this book seems more like a protracted short story; it remains stubbornly literary, precious and thin in the hands of co-writers Ammaniti, Umberto Contarello, Francesca Marciano and Bertolucci.”
Variety‘s Peter Debruge finds “this slender, be-pimpled Besieged is only half-convincing, and even less engaging.” More from Camille De Marco (Cineuropa), Dan Fainaru (Screen) and Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist, C-).
Cannes 2012 Index: a guide to the coverage of the coverage. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily on Twitter and/or the RSS feed. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at fandor.com/daily.