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With: Sergio Castellitto, Penelope Cruz, Claudia Gerini, Marco Giallini, Elena Perino
Written by: Sergio Castellitto, based on the novel by Margaret Mazzantini
Directed by: Sergio Castellitto
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Italian with English subtitles
Running Time: 117
Date: 03/18/2013

Don't Move (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dr. Selfish

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

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Opening with an overhead shot of the aftermath of a traffic accident as the camera slowly zooms in to reveal the lost helmet of a pretty young moped rider, Don't Move sets its stage in a memorably dramatic instant, then parlays this moment into another heart-stopper: the girl's father is a doctor at the hospital where she undergoes emergency brain surgery.

Seeing his child cling to life throws the emotion-swallowing Dr. Timoteo Rossi (Sergio Castellitto, also the film's writer-director) into a spiral of memories, not of his fatherhood to a beloved daughter, but of the unlikely affair that his wife's pregnancy derailed some 15 years before.

After this powerfully evocative prologue however, Don't Move flounders despite top-notch performances by Castellitto (as convincing as a vital 35-year-old as he is at a fatigued 50) and by Penelope Cruz, whose beauty is compellingly transformed into a ragged-edged, emotionally battered, seasonal hotel maid named Italia, who becomes Timo's unfortunate rape victim, then his whore, and eventually his largely neglected mistress.

Castellitto expects empathy for the unflaggingly selfish Timo, at first because the rape was impulsive, sparked by habitual subconscious signals Italia gives off when they meet after his Volvo breaks down near the slum where she lives. A seemingly perpetual victim, she hardly bothers to fight him off, as if this has happened to her dozens of times before.

But even as their affair progresses into a desperately needy addiction, this adaptation of an Italian novel by Castellitto's wife, Margaret Mazzantini, continues to paint Timo as a poor, wounded soul, and the far more pitiable Italia as his tragic but hard-wearing touchstone -- to whom he offers only condescending kindness in return. Despite the film's efforts to portray this as some kind of love, it never crosses either of their minds that a caring man might help her find a better job or help her move from the slums.

And yet the performances are so vivid and Castellitto's filmmaking so potent that Don't Move is often spellbinding nonetheless -- especially in the film's present-day chapter-stops as Timo comes unraveled pacing the halls outside his daughter's operating room.

Peppered with expressive editing and metaphorically monochromed imagery, and photographed in a way that provides a visceral sense of hot weather and cold emotions, this film is nothing if not intense. But in the end, it's far easier to care what happens to Italia, to the daughter and to Timo's wife (Claudia Gerini) -- whose natural beauty, intelligence and affection make his infidelity baffling -- than it is to conjure up any compassion for the picture's passive-aggressive, egocentric ostensive protagonist.

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