Ever since the beginning of cinema, there are have been an abundance of love stories that unrealistically depict modern relationships by using seemingly flawless protagonists who are assisted by an abundance of miracles to sort through their relationship problems. Fasten Your Seatbelts throws that formula to the wind and gives us one of the most realistic love stories ever.
Hailing from Italy, Fasten Your Seatbelts tells the story of twenty-something Elena (Kasia Smutniak) who finds herself strangely attracted to Antonio (Francesco Arca), a physically beautiful man with an ugly personality. Antonio is unashamedly racist, homophobic and adulterous—the total opposite of Elena. Not only is Antonio disliked by her best friend (a happily open homosexual) Fabio (Filippo Scicchitano), but he’s dating Elena’s best girlfriend, Silvia. To make matters even worse, Elena has been in a committed relationship herself for many years and is busy working on starting her career as a restauranteur with Fabio. Against her better judgement, Elena indulges in a sweet, secret affair with Antonio while constantly trying to justify a balance between her insatiable lust and lack of respect for Antonio.
The characters are the best part of this film because they’re so well developed and truly human. There’s a sense of reality to them that is difficult to successfully illustrate. They are all so multidimensional that they are likeable despite their flaws because they are flawed and therefore human. Coupled with the spectacularly witty writing that helps to maintain the film’s remarkable balance of serious and humorous, the characters are a realistic ragtag group of regular people who are attempting to live life without a handbook.
While the characters and writing are admirable, the plot of the film is a little weird, but not necessarily in a bad way. It’s an unorthodox way of presenting the age of love affair and while there are moments when the audience is forced to pull themselves out of the film to think about why the plot is progressing a certain way, it does all come together in the end in a more or less satisfying conclusion. Despite the experimental storytelling, the subject of love is handled spectacularly because it so clearly and competently illustrates that sometimes, you just can’t help for whom you fall.
I myself spent the bulk of the movie trying to figure out why a smart, educated and well-rounded woman like Elena would allow herself to be attracted to a closed-minded brute like Antonio, but the beauty of the film is that it shows that there is no guilt in falling for someone for whom you may not have any respect because human emotions are often beyond human comprehension. If nothing else, that little reminder is reason enough to give Fasten Your Seatbelts a chance.