Rain plays a big part in this account of a doomed love affair. At the center of the story is Timoteo, a successful Italian surgeon, happily married, by all appearances, but hiding a deep secret which he does not share with anyone. The narrative begins with a horrible accident in which Angela, his teen age daughter suffers a bad accident while riding her motorcycle in the rain. Timoteo, who is told by a colleague about Angela's ordeal, had been at the hospital all the time, but he must yield to another doctor to do the dangerous procedure on her daughter.
As he waits impatiently the result of Angela's operation, his mind wanders to another period of his life when he met, and fell passionately in love with Italia, a common woman from the country, now eking a life in the outskirts of Rome. They meet as Timoteo's car breaks down. Italia, who lives nearby offers the use of her phone to call for help with the car. Timoteo ends up raping the woman.
The affair continues because Timoteo cannot bear to part without this woman, in spite of being married to Elsa, a beautiful woman with lots of class. The rough sex with Italia turns into an affair as he cannot seem to have the will power to break it. Timoteo promises Italia he will tell his wife, but he never even broaches the subject. Timoteo manages to get Italia and Elsa pregnant at the same time. Italia, who realizes Timoteo will never leave his wife decides to end her pregnancy, something that eventually brings her own demise, leaving Timoteo to suffer.
Sergio Castellitto is a wonderful actor. In his second film as a director, he chose to adapt the novel written by his wife, Margaret Mazzantini, in this collaboration. It is a sexually charged account of a man who has lived through a horrible childhood as his father abandoned him at an early age. That event seems to be the root of all the problems in his Timoteo's mind. Having achieved success, as well as a good wife, he is hell bent on a self destructive journey that will ultimately ruin his life, feeling responsible for what he did to Italia.
It is hard to understand what made Timoteo act the way he did. Perhaps the rage he has kept in check for such a long time, triggers a behavior that is out of character for a man of his stature. Having it all, Timoteo embarks in an affair that will destroy a woman that gave her all to a man that could not appreciate her worth. His guilt comes to the surface as he faces his own daughter's accident where he is helpless to do anything for her, relying on his close colleagues to do the job.
The surprise in the film was Penelope Cruz who shows a different side from what she had been doing in the cinema. She usually casts a bland presence by being asked to play women out of her range. She is totally changed in this film in which director Castellitto must have influenced the way she is seen. There are a lot of symbols in the film. Italia is a sort of modern Cabiria, without her optimism and her attitude toward life. Italia is a more reserved woman who knows she is out of her league in her affair with Timoteo.
Sergio Castellitto shows he has interesting things to say to an audience. The fact that his character raped Italia is hard to understand. He even asks a close friend if he frequents prostitutes. In Timoteo's mind there is nothing more than feeling superior to Italia as he rapes her. Yet, his own guilty feelings will get the best of him, when he realizes Italia loved him selflessly. The beautiful Claudia Gerini appears as Elsa, Timoteo's wife.
Gianfilippo Corticelli, the cinematographer, captures the two opposite worlds of Timoteo's by juxtaposing them in ways that reminded us of some of the 1960s films in which the outskirts of Rome served as the background for a lot of them with the new buildings rising as future housing and then taking the action to luxury interiors. Mr. Castellitto shows he has learned his lesson in front of the camera and now moves behind it to give his fans a different view of things.