'Don't Move': Just Move On

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 27, 2005

"DON'T MOVE" opens with one heck of a great-looking shot: a high, overhead view in the rain of the aftermath of a traffic accident. Drops of water fall away from the camera as it slowly zooms downward toward a waiting ambulance and an empty bicycle helmet puddled with water.

Stylish though the camera angles may be, this Italian love story by writer-director Sergio Castellitto (who is also its star) is romantic melodrama of the worst kind. In other words, it's the kind that fails to convince us that the grand amore that lies at its heart -- in this case, between married doctor Timoteo (Castellitto) and Italia (Penelope Cruz), the Albanian hotel maid he initially rapes and then treats like a prostitute on personal retainer -- is anything other than sexual dependency, pure and simple.

And my problem with this movie is what exactly?

Yes, I realize that there are some people out there (and they are by no means all Italian) for whom sex is love, or for whom it's close enough, at least as far as movies are concerned. I am not one of them. I'd like to believe that there is something -- a similar sense of humor, a shared appreciation of wine or veal piccata perhaps -- holding two people together that goes beyond, you know, a mutual fondness for gettin' busy. Especially if you're going to call it love, as this movie does.

Precipitated by a serious accident involving Timoteo's teenage daughter (Elena Perino) -- the comatose bicyclist being wheeled into the ambulance in the opening scene -- "Don't Move" tells its story in a series of flashbacks that Timoteo preoccupies himself with as he waits for his daughter to come out of surgery. Beginning with Timoteo's rape of Italia and proceeding through her eventual pregnancy and abortion, the tale leads inevitably toward -- well, saying more would spoil the fun. Except that the movie ain't much fun, and you can probably figure out what happens without me telling you.

It ain't pretty either, but then again neither is Italia, a role that, as played by a brassy, tarted-up Cruz, seems begging for the Charlize Theron Memorial "Monster" award. Actually, it's nothing that a small wardrobe adjustment (in favor of something that doesn't say "hooker" quite so much) and a makeover at the Lancome counter couldn't fix. What's really ugly is Timoteo's behavior, as he keeps "whoring around" (his words) with Italia while remaining married to Elsa (the beautiful Claudia Gerini). Timoteo eventually summons up the strength to tell his wife the truth, only to have her trump his news with a little bombshell of her own.

Of course, our hero never gets around to running off with Italia, a decision that he will live to regret years later -- not to mention relive for the purposes of our entertainment.

Based on a book by Castellitto's wife, Margaret Mazzantini, "Don't Move" wants to be a tragic opera about thwarted possibility, making do with the cards fate deals us, and saying goodbye to the One That Got Away. As it is, it's a syrupy Italian power ballad along the lines of the ones on the movie's soundtrack. Its tune is mawkish, bombastic but, in the end, not especially resonant.

DON'T MOVE (Unrated, 125 minutes) -- Contains sex, nudity, obscenity and some blood. In Italian with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema and Bethesda Row.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company