Review: The Guest
by Kaleem Aftab
- LOCARNO 2018: Duccio Chiarini has made an easy-to-watch tale about lost loves and new starts, screening in the Piazza Grande
Italian director Duccio Chiarini brings his easy-to-watch second feature, The Guest [+see also:
film profile], to Locarno, where it is having its world premiere in the blockbuster Piazza Grande section. Whereas Chiarini’s debut film, the Venice Biennale College micro-budget flick Short Skin [+see also:
interview: Duccio Chiarini
film profile], dealt with a teenage male coming to terms with the first painful pangs of sexuality, his new feature sees him look at the opposite end of the affair, as his protagonist, Guido (Daniele Parisi), is pushing 40 and coming to terms with the fact that his girlfriend Chiara (Silvia D’Amico) doesn’t want to bear his child or, indeed, be with him any more.
The drama threatens to be audacious in its first scene, which sees a naked Guido searching for a broken condom inside Chiara, but the action quickly settles down into quite a pedestrian and mild story of lost loves and new beginnings. Academic Guido’s middle-class existence is ruptured by the failure of his relationship, and having quit cohabitation, he finds himself having to ask friends and his parents if he can stay on their sofas. He is the guest but he never outstays his welcome, as he soon discovers that no relationship is as perfect as it seems, with only his parents seeming to really be in it for the long run. This is the time of Tinder, after all.
There is an attempt to place this story as a social comment on the generational shift that has taken place in Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, when Guido’s parents point out, “We are a different generation. They throw things away, and we used to repair them.” The message is clear: it’s the same with girlfriends and wives, because nowadays, nothing is for keeps.
And such easy philosophising and analogies are par for the course in The Guest, which happily plods along with wry comments and melodramatic schemata. Every character is undergoing some sort of a crisis. Ultimately, everything feels a bit too easy for Guido: even when he stalks his now ex-girlfriend, she treats him with kid gloves, and there is no deeper investigation asking whether the cotton-wool treatment of Guido by the women in his life has resulted in his privileged masculinity. Instead, Chiarini relies on familiarity to tell this tale: the scenes are recognisable, the characters are likeable, even their foibles aren’t too bad, and it doesn’t want to bum you out, so it doesn’t take too long for Guido to find another, more suitable model. If only life were this breezy.
The Guest was produced by Mood Film in co-production with Cinedokke and House on Fire with Rai Cinema and RSI - Radiotelevisione Svizzera, in association with Relief and Bravado Film, and with the support of the Lazio region, MiBACT, Eurimages, Ufficio Federale Della Cultura, Fondo di Co-sviluppo Italia-Francia MiBACT-CNC and the TorinoFilmLab. It was made in collaboration with Wildside.
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