Synopsis: In Rome, two teenage friends descend into a life of crime hoping for a better future.
It’s hard to believe that BOYS CRY is the debut feature of Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo. One of the best directed and most engaging films of the Berlinale, albeit not being selected for competition and relegated to the Panorama section, BOYS CRY is a fascinating look at friendship, love, crime, and parenthood. Deeply entertaining and affecting, this is a film that should see further film festival bookings and could very well have promising commercial prospects.
Manolo (Andrea Carpenzano) and Mirko (Matteo Olivetti) are two high school friends about to graduate. They plan to become waiters and lead a modest life in one of Rome’s poor neighborhoods. After an accident in which they run over a random man, their life shifts tremendously and they find themselves at the heart of Rome’s gang life. Revealing more details would spoil this fast-paced and surprising film that works on three distinct layers and offers a subtle, yet powerful, portrait of Italy’s disadvantaged communities.
A perfect companion piece to A CIAMBRA (which played in Cannes last year and showcased the crime life of poor children forced to become men too soon in Southern Italy before going on to be Italy’s submission for the 2018 Foreign Language Oscar), BOYS CRY’s most obvious layer is its gangster setting. Filled with heart-stopping moments and edge-of-your-seat antics, the film delivers the energy, pace, and thrills of the gangster genre. But that’s only one layer and, arguably, not really what the film is about. To properly perceive the film is to look at its deeper meanings – one that’s primarily about love and the human soul.
On an interesting level, the film carefully examines the psychology of the human soul and what happens when crime becomes the new norm of someone who had led a quiet, passive life. The descent into crime and its impact on one’s innocence, naivety and moral values to the point of no return marks one of the picture’s strongest attributes. Guilt appears to be scarce, just as a faint memory that was once alive and strong only to then dissolve and become so far away that it is no longer within reach. Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo depict this beautifully – choosing to balance the silence and dialogue to powerfully depict the eternal loss of innocence that Manolo and Mirko experience.
But the heart of the film, and its third and most memorable layer, is love; the love between friends and paternal love, two very different and often contrasting forms of passion. The relationship between Manolo and Mirko forms the film’s emotional core, delivering a truly affecting and perfectly measured relationship that captures how powerful the bond of friendship can be, especially for tormented souls whose morals shift into oblivion. Despite the cold spaces they work in and despite their loss of innocence, the two friends’ relationship is truly fascinating to watch, even more so in the silent or very scarcely-worded scenes. Paternal love is the film’s freshest element, depicting two unusual and surprising forms of parent-son relationships, full of fiery dialogue and excellent dramatic elements. The fact that one parent in the film encourages their son to lead a gangster life, and how Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo succeed in depicting this convincingly, is a reminder that there are many shades to paternal love that are yet to be seen in film – and BOYS CRY delivers a unique look at such abiding, powerful form of love with an ending that seemingly may have arrived too soon only to then remind us how quickly the film’s runtime had flown by.
The film’s technical credits, including fantastic cinematography, a strong score, and superb editing, help make this a truly engrossing and captivating experience. Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo should have a very interesting career ahead of them and it will be certainly interesting to see where it goes from there.
Verdict: An engrossing, emotional and masterful look at friendship, paternal love, and the complicated, fractured human soul, BOYS CRY is a testament to the immense talent of two emerging filmmakers and a film that should be on Italy’s list when it considers its Best Foreign Language Oscar submissions.