This is not the first documentary to show its subjects suddenly aging on-screen. But Le Cose Belle (which translates as “All the Best”, with some bitter irony in light of the facts here) offers a twist on forerunners like Michael Apted’s classic Up series.
Directors Agostino Ferrente and Giovanni Piperno spend the first third of the film introducing us to four charismatic Italian kids. Adele, Fabio, Silvana, and Enzo live in impoverished sections of Naples, and yet all of them face the camera with guileless good humour and shining confidence in their planned routes to stardom as models, actors, and pro footballers. (Enzo, for one, is a striking singer who performs “Classic Neapolitan” songs of love and heartbreak in restaurants.)
Then time skips forward a dozen years to the present, and we rejoin the four in their mid 20s. Their faces and bodies are leaner or puffier with the pressures of adulthood. Their eyes are sadder, more tightly focused on the day. But Ferrente and Piperno go beyond the familiar tale of youthful dreams scattered by grief and disappointment. Le Cose Belle is as much about the constant pull of poverty, and about its evolving demands. The parents we met in the earlier segments were tradespeople: fishmongers, bakers, furniture restorers. Their grown children are now hotel cleaners, exotic dancers, sales reps for hype-driven telecom companies, if they’re not adrift and improvising ways to cope with lives shaken by street violence and prison.
The sadness of this is inescapable, as it is clearly meant to be in the film’s often elegant photography. And it would be complete if not for the many moments we also see of kindness and iron-clad familial love.
Vancity, May 4 (8:30 p.m.)