Reviewed by Drew Ninnis.
Director: Alessio Maria Federici.
Runtime: 82 minutes.
Cast: Enrico Brignano, Ambra Angiolini, Anna Galiena, Giampaolo Morelli.
Plot: Jacopo is one of Italy’s most successful marriage counsellors, and a curse for the women who date him. No matter how careful they are, or what Jacopo tries, each woman he gets serious with ends up seriously in a gruesome and hilarious fashion. Swearing off women, he finds satisfaction in his work – that is, until Sara arrives in his life. Falling madly in love, Jacopo does his best to ignore the mounting signs that the curse is back and worse than ever – as Sara falls into a series of more dangerous, hilarious slapstick situations. Will their love last?
Reviewed as part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2014.
Festival Goers? See it.
Review: Alessio Maria Federici’s Stay Away From Me (Stai lontana di me) asks that age old question of ‘can love overcome all obstacles?’ Even when, in Jacopo’s (Enrico Brignano) case, those obstacles can be life threatening? The answer is yes, of course, but the film gets some fun mileage out of the obstacles that poor Sara (Ambra Angiolini) smacks into, has fall upon her, that destroy her career, her sanity, and almost her love for Jacopo herself. Stay Away From Me is an absolutely stupid film, and knows it, and does the most entertaining thing possible with that fact – rather than trying to be a self-serious romantic comedy, it transforms itself into a modern slapstick masterpiece – placing porn in front of Catholic cardinals, creating accidental racy elevator tableaus, and seriously endangering the life of a dog and a family of storks. For that reason alone, it is well worth seeing and entertaining without being a particularly good film. It doesn’t have to be, it’s just funny.
'According to a rough calculation, at this precise moment in Rome 15,766 couples are arguing,' our narrator tells us confidently, during a montage of said arguments about coffee, parking, and other banal circumstances. The film moves at a blessedly fast clip, and we meet our hero the marriage counsellor in the middle of a wedding about to go off the rails – although the couple seems to have had the foresight to invite their therapist to help in the inevitable rough patches. Like a calm man trying to talk a jumper down from a tall building, Jacopo reasons with all the parties concerned, the wedding proceeds with a standing ovation, and he proves the confidence founded that is the basis of his practice. The humour is light and generally present, as Jacopo offers an internal commentary on the guests and their dispositions, stopping only to share his thoughts with the beautiful Sara, with whom he promptly falls in love. This is an unwanted complication for Jacopo, as he recounts in what is the films bravura scene – a comic, deeply slapstick montage in which he lists all of the injuries his romantic curse has done to his dates over the years. Audiences will particularly cringe at an incident with the hot plates. He concludes ‘there’s nothing nicer than making a woman happy; pity it is always someone else’s woman.’
Yet for once he is wrong; leading to a fledgling and possibly ill-considered romance with Sara, once she returns for his professional assistance. The relationship is quick to develop, as are her injuries; his best friend, and doctor in the local emergency room, comments that ‘seven more cases and we’ll name a ward after you’ when Sara lands herself there as well. ‘It’s no strings attached, she’s not in any danger’ Jacopo pleads, still in denial about the inevitable onset of the curse (placed on him by an angry girlfriend in primary school). The will-they-won’t-they dynamic is played lightly, and throughout the running time the film gains a lot of laughs out of the prospect of danger (on one occasion with an ill-advised date to a teppanyaki restaurant), and the almost Rube Goldberg-esque manner in which some of the disasters are delivered. One standout scene is a trip to the country, where Sara’s actions set an entire house on fire, through the unlucky intervention of a nest of storks. ‘In Italy, one person in 1,000 is a jinx,’ Sara’s friend remarks, ‘that makes 3,000 in Rome alone.’ Well, that certainly explains Italy’s current political situation.
Apart from those moments, there are a few amusing and farcical tableaus which will stretch belief a little in their convenience towards the end of the film. But ultimately, we know where this rather pedestrian script is headed, even if we are contented to go on a casual stroll with it. Some elements of the film reflect a rather budget origin – with on the nose and overplayed wacky midi music, and some wonky camera work; but the film is confidently performed, directed, and shot with a lot of energy and brio. ‘Basta!’ the film refrains, ‘that’s enough!’ and at a slight 82 minutes it knows when to call it a day. Don’t expect anything great from Stay Away From Me, just expect an amusing distraction; that’s what you’ll get and enjoy. Personally, I find that the light entertainments like this are a blessed relief from the other mandatory and overwrought dramas of the festival, desperate to be selected for Cannes. Like Jacopo on his lonely Greek island, we should be grateful for the small mercies of life (and goats, wonderful, hilarious goats).
Rating: Three stars.