Once in a while a movie will come along that will take your expectations for it and throw them out the window and you’ll be mighty glad for it. The Dinner (I Nostri Ragazzi) is one of those movies.
The title refers to a monthly ritual two brothers take part in. Paolo, a pediatrician who is emphatic and ethical, meets with his brother Massimo, a high-priced defence lawyer who usually ends up defending the guilty. Also present are Paolo’s wife, Carla, who hates Massimo and his wife, but who shares an intense mutual love and affection with her husband. Sofia is Massimo’s wife who, upon first appearances looks to be nothing more than a trophy wife, but actually shares the same sort of mutual love with Massimo as Paolo and Carla do with each other. When the brothers’ children—Massimo’s daughter Benny and Paolo’s son Michele—are discovered to have committed a crime, both brothers’ sense of morals and ethics are called into practice as they consider what to do when their own flesh and blood are guilty of a vicious crime.
To say the characters are complicated would be an understatement. Characters with whom the viewer sympathizes at first soon turn into characters to abhor and vice-versa. Benny and Michele, who are relatively unknown at the start, are further developed as the truth of their crime comes out and show themselves to be terrifying. Despite possibly being sociopaths, they have the security net of their loving parents who will do anything for them and they take advantage of it. Benny blatently manipulates her father, who generally has left her to her own devices. When he overhears her bragging about this fact, he makes a decision that will affect the lives of everyone involved.
While watching this movie, I got the same sort of tense, ambiguous sense of suspense and discomfort as I did watching movies like Before and After and We Need to Talk About Kevin. Like these movies, The Dinner (I Nostri Ragazzi) deals with family who are faced with an unimaginable crisis and are at a loss. The desperation and feelings of losing all control of their lives leads to a chilling climax which concludes the film with a bang.
A tight story, perfectly imperfect characters and a a beautifully crafted tension that betrayed the actual simplicity of the movie, The Dinner (I Nostri Ragazzi) is one that will leaving you a little uncomfortable for days after, but it will totally be worth it.
The Dinner (I Nostri Ragazzi) screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 17 @ 10:00pm.
Sarah is covering the Italian Contemporary Film Festival which runs in Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City from June 11-19. For more festival coverage, click here!