GoCritic! Review: Likemeback
- We look at the Italian film which world-premiered in Locarno's Filmmakers of the Present and came home at the Trieste Film Festival
There must be something driving Italian writer-director Leonardo Guerra Seragnoli towards the glamorous but confined world of sailing yachts, considering that both his 2014 feature debut, Last Summer [+see also:
film profile], and his latest Italian-Croatian co-production, Likemeback [+see also:
film profile], are set on sailboats. The latter just had its Italian premiere in the Corso Salani section of the 30th Trieste Film Festival.
As much as the idea of summer vacations spent cruising across the sea might conjure up the image of a dreamy paradise of hot bodies and cold drinks, anyone who has spent a day on a boat knows that those sea-surrounded 30 square metresare the perfect breeding ground for interpersonal conflicts. Seragnoli uses such a set-up to put his main characters’ friendship to the test. Carla (Denise Tantucci), Lavinia (Blu Yoshimi) and Danila (Angela Fontana) are all besties, despite being quite different: while Carla worries about her university entrance exam and has a boyfriend ten years her senior, Danila’s only obsession is her number of online followers. Lavinia, meanwhile, is insecure and shy, despite also being rich and spoilt. Together, they set sail on the Croatian Adriatic to celebrate their entry into adulthood following the high school graduation. The alluring landscapes of Dalmatia, and the white external shots of the yacht, captured here in all its opulence, ensure the visual appeal of Likemeback, and the intimate and subtly shaky handheld camera employed by DoP Gian Filippo Corticelli, works well to capture the carefree nature of the trip and youthful beauty of the three actresses.
The film opens with the girls dancing, drinking and skinny-dipping, with their smartphones in hand and photos constantly uploading to social networks. But things are set to go downhill when Carla’s phone falls into the deep blue sea. Seragnoli takes a close look at the epidemic of social media addiction, exploring the complications which can arise when youngsters, who often view their phone as an ever-present companion, and forced to deal with its loss. The director avoids any direct shots of the physical social media environment, never focusing on phone screens nor displaying message pop-ups in corners of the film frame, as many recent films do. In this respect, Likemeback offers a different cinematic perspective on this fairly common topic, but the girls’ addiction is no less visible for it, as the script relies on their dialogues in which they talk about followers, views, likes and "seens".
Whilst the three girls’ characters are rather transparent, little is known about the fourth traveller - local 30-something boat skipper, Joško (Goran Marković, of The High Sun [+see also:
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile] fame). Presumably posing another threat to the girls besides the lost phone, Joško is barely seen on-screen after he is introduced to us in the first couple of minutes of the film. By focusing solely onto the trio, having previously made the audience aware of Joško’s presence, Seragnoli creates an unsettling atmosphere of lurking menace, which is heightened by the three-girls-versus-one-skipper character balance. But, when it comes to Joško, the script doesn’t disappoint: he’s not the one to turn into a (teen)lady-killer; it’s actually Carla who approaches him. Returning from the virtual to the real world, both innocent and sexually irresistible, and somewhat reminiscent of Rooney Mara in Carol [+see also:
film profile], Carla comes face-to-face with Joško in a simple and intimate close-up scene in which Marković finally gets his much-deserved moment in the sun.
However, just as the plot is reaching its climax with a compromising online post, the film comes to an abrupt end, with no further exploration of what could have proved a pivotal moment for the characters: an opportunity to change and turn things around. The open ending of Likemeback feels vaguely undefined, almost as if it should be followed by a sequel in which the real drama would unfold. This decision to cut off the film before exploring any possible backlash of the girls’ ruthless online behaviour is a real drawback to what is otherwise a very likeable coming-of-age drama.
This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.
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