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Finding Self: A Beautiful Coming of Age Story
on August 6, 2008
MY BROTHER IS AN ONLY CHILD ('Mio fratello è figlio unico') is a title that may confuse the casual movie viewer, but it is an apt summation of the rigorous story that this excellent Italian film by Danielle Luchetti (adapted from a novel by Antonio Pennacchi) represents - the coming of age of two brothers in the confusing and turbulent 1960's and 1970's in Italy. While the film deals with the myriad political factions that disrupted life especially among the students of that era, the main focus of the story is the indomitable brotherly love that bonds the two main characters.
Accio Benano (Vittorrio Emanuele Popizo) as a child is a mischief maker who has entered seminary to become a priest, but his innate search for truth and meaning soon finds him returning home to his little family in a Mussolini-fabricated town called Latina, a village built on promises of communal well-being (a housing project was built but the poor villagers are refused access to it), but languishes in the poverty of lost hopes and deflated spirits. Accio's father, mother, younger sister and older brother Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio) are making ends meet, but are frustrated with the political oppression of the working class. Time passes and the older Accio (Elio Germano) comes under the influence of Mussolini's 'idealism' with the tutelage of his older friend Mario (Luca Zingaretti) and embraces Fascism while Manrico has aligned with the communists, and it is this dichotomy of belief that sets Accio apart from his brother as well as his family who are communist sympathizers. Accio's personality places him in harms way with the law, with women (he has longings for the women in both Mario's and Manrico's lives), and ultimately with turns of events that threaten to pit brother against brother. The resolution of these conflicts makes for a fascinating study of familial ties, brotherly love, and a keenly observed sociopolitical history of Italy that is as enlightening as it is entertaining.
While Germano and Scamarcio are the obvious stars of this well acted film, the supporting cast (including such fine actors as Angela Finocchiaro, Massimo Popolizio, Alba Rohrwacher, Anna Bonaiuto, and Diane Fleri) is uniformly strong. This epic film demands full attention to the script (Italian with English subtitles) to follow the various political differences, but the tenor of the film is one of the excitement and concomitant love of two brothers coming of age in the best Italian style! It is a joy to watch and a lesson in history about which we should all be aware. Grady Harp, August 08