In the pantheon of ludicrous, offensive, and idiotic dramatic ideas, few can rival the narrative axis of Sergio Castellitto's Don't Move, in which heart-stopping romance and chest-heaving passion spring from deliberate, violent rape. Preposterous whenever it's not embarrassingly mawkish and manipulative, this Italian import concerns Timoteo (Castellitto), an unhappily married surgeon, and the budding affair he begins with filthy, impoverished cocktail waitress Italia (Penélope Cruz) after he - believe it or not - repeatedly sexually assaults her over the course of a few weeks. Yet love blossoms from such brutality because, as Castellitto's film would somehow have us believe, Timoteo's crime - not exactly romanticized, but nonetheless presented with something less than condemnation - is just a cry for help, a cathartic expulsion of the anger and anguish created by his loveless life. Thus, when he physically forces himself upon the innocent Italia (her name simply one of many instances of unsubtle symbolism), he's not a cretinous predator to be loathed or vilified but, rather, a pitiful man trying to find himself.

Turned off yet? If not, then Castellitto's wealth of ostentatious slow-motion shots, employment of cheesy pop songs, and disgusting, exploitive use of a critically wounded young girl for his film's framing story, will undoubtedly do the trick. Adapted from Margaret Mazzantini's novel, Don't Move layers on cheap sentiment and shamelessly calculating plot twists without even a sidewise glance toward rationality. Timoteo's teenage daughter suffers serious head trauma in a motorcycle accident, and while waiting to hear word of her grave condition, Timoteo spies a mysterious figure on the hospital promenade who conjures memories of his beloved Italia, whom he not only loved and planned to run away with (wife and brand new baby be damned), but whom he credits for having healed his tortured soul. As embodied by Castellitto, Timoteo is the kind of misery-relishing sad-sack who enjoys prolonged, empty stares into nothingness, and his behavior is so ridiculous - including one screamingly silly moment when he writes "I Raped A Woman" in the sand while his wife ignorantly saunters by - that it's hard to envisage him as anything less than an absurdly overblown fictional creation. Watching him act forlornly in a dreary bar (in slow-motion, naturally) while Europe's "The Final Countdown" blares from the jukebox is to witness the eye-rolling height of bizarre unintentional comedy.

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