This offbeat ghost story draws us in with its sharp-edged comedy then gets under our skin by quietly shifting the lively humour into much darker emotion. Italian-Turkish filmmaker Ozpetek has mixed present-day Rome with World War II before (see the Hitchcockian drama Facing Windows), so this more comical approach sometimes feels uneven. But it's still hugely engaging.
At the centre is Pietro (Germano), an aspiring actor in his late 20s who's tired of living with his cousin Maria (Minaccioni). He can't believe his luck when he rents a grand apartment in a desirable neighbourhood. Although he quickly learns why it was such a good deal: there are eight ghosts living with him. After his initial terror subsides, he begins to get to know them, discovering that they are a 1943 acting troupe. Maybe they can help him get his career going, as well as his stale romantic life. And if he can work out why they're trapped in this flat, maybe he can help them move on.
This set-up allows Ozpetek to indulge in some hilarious slapstick, as the ghosts all have diva tendencies, while also delving into some much deeper drama due to Italy's troubling wartime past. Along the way, the film also makes pointed comments on the country's political and arts scenes, both past and present. But the focus is always on the characters themselves, and they're beautifully played. Germano is such a likeable guy that we can't help but fall for him and wonder why he has so much trouble finding someone to love.
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Returning home to Lecce from his studies in Rome, Tommaso (Scamarcio) confides to his older brother Antonio (Preziosi) that he intends to tell his whole family that he's gay, partly to get out of his responsibilities in the family's pasta business. But at dinner that night, Antonio drops his own bombshell, leaving their parents (Savino and Fantastichini) and sister (Nappi) stunned.
Their grandmother (Occhini), however, isn't so surprised. Or shaken. Over the next weeks, the fallout continues as Tommaso befriends the sexy, mysterious Alba (Grimaudo) and neglects his boyfriend (Recano) back in Rome.
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It's 30-year-old Lorenzo (Luca Argentero) and his lover Davide (Pierfrancesco Favino) who attract friends to their dinner parties. Troubled married couple Antonio (Stefano Accorsi) and Angelica (Margherita Buy) are regulars, as are Davide's ex Sergio (Ennio Fantastichini), drug-addled Roberta (Ambra Angiolini), and, most memorably Neval (Serra Yilmaz), a short and fat truth teller who busts through the rest of the group's fibs and vague comments with cutting remarks. She's the one who can be counted on to keep things somewhat lively.
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In sudden counterpoint to this fear and tension from the past come the modern strains of a couple arguing about kids and money. Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) hates her job as a bookkeeper in a chicken factory and husband Filippo (Filippo Nigro) can't seem to hold a job and is too dependent on her. She wants more from him than he seems able to give.
Continue reading: Facing Windows Review
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