Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Come Undone. (2010) Silvio Soldini

Why is it that you can have a relationship or steamy sex, but never both? At least that's the way it works in the movies.

Maybe Anna just needed to be noticed again, not for her great career, not for her caring spirit. Maybe she needed to be noticed for being gorgeous. Maybe she missed the days when her boyfriend Alessio dove into her for her luscious beauty. Maybe if he'd lose some weight and pursue her like the madman he no doubt was when they met, she wouldn't be tempted at the thought of someone else. Or maybe life in Milan has become way too predictable. It's really hard to tell.

I love how this story begins. Anna and Alessio are awakened in the middle of the night by her sister Isa on the phone. Isa's husband is working a night shift, her water just broke and she's going to have this baby now. Anna and Ale, with a car in the shop, wake up a neighbor and ask to borrow his vehicle. They make it to the hospital, and then the delivery, and Anna gets to cut the cord. They've made it through a midnight emergency, and joy is the end result -- but they couldn't have made it through without each other.

That we get to see Anna and Alessio in the middle of an emergency and dealing with the fallout later (Anna, devastated, admitting she never knew birth was so "violent") reveals a couple experiencing the spectrum of life's emotions. They are barreling through and even enjoying life's crazed moments -- together. The next night, tired as he is, Ale makes dinner for her and they chat. The next morning he helps pack her car. He's a handy man -- he puts a door on their shower, and she won't have that nasty curtain touching her in the shower again.

He mentions in passing that maybe it's time they thought about a baby. A business woman by day, she's hesitant at first, but then later she's suddenly willing to go off the pill. Her decision seems tailored to make him happy. Their relationship is a close one, and if any couple is truly in love, they seem so.

So why does she make a date with a caterer she barely knows? Is she feeling the ticking clock after her sister's delivery? Is she bored with life? Or is it basic animal instinct -- Domenico is tall, dark and handsome. Does she need something wild on the side?

She claims her career keeps her busy and never bored. She seems content with Ale and their circle of friends. She doesn't want to tear down years that she's built up. There's something conflicted in her, but the film keeps us guessing about her motives. Perhaps she's guessing, too.

Another thing I like about the film is its shift in perspective. For the first part we only see the world through Anna's eyes. When she first falls for Domenico, he remains a mysterious figure, only popping up as we watch the course of Anna's days play out. But then they sleep together, and we finally follow him home. To his wife. To his newborn baby and five year-old girl. To a job that doesn't pay enough and a brother, willing to loan him money, but whom he resents nonetheless.

There's no one to root for here. It's a story about an affair that's about as real as it gets. These are real people that have real desires, desires that lead to real hurts. We don't root for Alessio or Domenico to finally win the heart of the babe, or the right to take her home. Anna's not some trophy you might find on "Big Brother." The parts here are all played to perfection, but this is heartbreaking stuff. That old song, "Torn Between Two Lovers" comes to mind.

You might recognize Anna from her role as the lesbian sister in another film set in Milan, I Am Love. Though that film played more to art-house audiences, it's interesting that the two, both released this year, deal with an aging blonde falling for someone working in the food business. The films differ, however, in approaching their key affairs -- each film has a different focus. And while Come Undone is no smoldering filmic masterpiece like I Am Love, it deals with its conflicted characters so realistically that you can't help but be drawn into the fallout of its story.

The movie went through a name change and had a few minutes shaved off before appearing at the Chicago International Film Festival and being released by Film Movement this fall. Come Undone could be a double entendre for the euphoria one feels in the arms of a strange, new lover. More likely, it's about the unraveling that takes place in a person's life when they've focused so hard on one thing that they forget to take all else into account. Anna and Domenico both have everything they need, but in the heat of the moment they risk it to grasp at that something extra. It's probably something most people in their shoes never understand -- how you can have it all, and be planning for more in that context, but still be willing to throw it away for the cherry on top -- so quickly eaten, and soon there's nothing in your hands.


  1. Great review. I liked this film very much. I found myself wanting to see these two together who seem so unfufilled with their lives. One of them has children and the other is with a wonderful guy. As the movie plays out, we can see that this relationship is doomed.

  2. I guess somewhere inside I believe that all adulterous relationships are doomed, but sadly, I know this isn't true. What I do know is that an adulterous relationship carries with it more hurt and baggage than the desire for sex is worth, and in Come Undone, a lot of the chemistry is physical/biological, which always bleeds into the mental/emotional. I like the honesty of Come Undone. It captures the desire and the fallout pretty well.

  3. This film has a great ending as we see them shed there lust for something real even after it huts both of them. When he says her husband was a saint I knew he would push her back to him as she released him to being a real father. The magic wore off and it was back to normal life. I also knew when the husband said he would let he work it out he would win out.

  4. "Something real" is found in shades of gray, and life isn't always as black and white as we were taught as little kids. Thanks for your words, Anonymous.

  5. it's a good film because it is realistic. it has many topics, one is class, they can not be together because he has to feed his children and does not make so much (as her boss does). another topic is the North-South relationship :) they fell in love and that is something that goes beyond words, that is why they got together...


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