This is an Italian drama about a boy who falls in love with the cinema and befriends a projectionist. It takes place in post-war Italy and shows a small town as it goes through its life. And life in this town revolves around the Cinema after the war and continues to show interest as Toto grows up. It shows life as it grows and changes just as the movies and the theatre they play them in change as well. It’s a personal story about one man’s love of film and how he changes as he grows up and learns about life, death, love, and everything else you’d expect in one of those coming-of-age stories.
I guess as far as dramas go, this one is pretty good. Most of the people feel real, though not all of them. It has the problem I have with a lot of dramas in that some of the people in in it over-act. I think it comes from the fact that most dramas need to have a lot of emotion in it and emotionality is one of the hardest things to fake and some people cover this up by just being over-emotional and it comes off as such. Then again, maybe it’s just an Italian thing? Well, either way, I’m not a fan of melodrama and whenever it shows up (except when played for laughs) it makes me like a movie less.
Also, this movie suffers from the problem that it doesn’t know how to end so it just goes on until one of the main character dies. This is an old writing “technique” (AKA: a cop out) that comes when a writer doesn’t know how to finish his or her story and then thinks something like “death will make it more meaningful!” and they run off to destroy an otherwise perfectly fine piece of fiction. The thing about death is that it’s meaningless and it could happen at any time to anyone for practically no reason. But a meaningless death just feels meaningless to your story when it happens on screen. I’m not saying every death has to be meaningful, but there should be a reason for it when you write your movie! I don’t care if it’s just so the Main Character can get riled up about something, or even if it’s done as a joke. I mean, even meaningless death is okay, but NOT WHEN IT’S DONE AS A FINAL PLOT POINT! Is it supposed to teach us something? That death is a bad thing? EVERYONE KNOWS THIS! I think it’s more like, “if I kill off a main character for no reason, everyone will cry therefore they’ll like my movie more!” You know, you can make it a meaningful death and they would still die and the crying and stuff, and you would also having the benefit of not seriously pissing me off fifteen minutes from the end of your movie!
Truthfully, this movie struggles once it switches from Toto being a boy to being a young man, and if it had ended at the end of the young man segment I think this would have been a fine film. But it drags on just to let me see it for what it is, a film that’s trying to find a true conflict. During the childhood section the plot is solid as a boy falling in love with the cinema and finding a friend in Alfredo. This is Man vs. His Environment as he learns to be a projectionist at a very young age and spends more time at the cinema than home or school. After this it struggles, though it’s meant to be true-to-life, because these points are mostly conflict-free the scenes and dialogue just feel empty. Then it totally loses me when it jumps far in the future when somebody dies and there is no longer any plot or conflict anymore. Ending at the end of the young man section would have kept things ambiguous and made it interesting. Here, by the end, I just don’t care anymore.
Why you should watch it before you die: Because you like movies with strong openings, realistic dramas, and you don’t mind reading subtitles.
+7: Decent drama with a really good first 50-60% of the film
+0.5: Good acting though a little melodramatic at points
-1: Just kill-off-a-character ending
-1: Lost conflict/plot in second half