The Ties (2020) Review
The exploration of failing marriages and broken relationships is hardly a unique idea for on-screen storytelling. From breezy comedies like Parent Trap to deeper, impactful dramas like Marriage Story, the collapse of families and companionship has been looked at a hell of a lot.
Despite delving into this well-worn principle, though, Italian title The Ties, showing at Cinema Made in Italy, offers a uniquely poignant, powerful take on the subgenre.
Following a fractured family across several important periods of their lives, Daniele Luchetti's dark, raw script - adapted from a novel by Domenico Starnone - shows the challenges that couples can face when attempting to live up to the expectation of forming the perfect household, including making painful decisions that may prove detrimental to your happiness.
The Ties mainly focuses on leading man Aldo (played by Luigi Lo Cascio in his younger years, Silvio Orlando in his elder) as he is forced to choose a path for the rest of his life - fight for the family he has created for himself, which is put at risk when he has an affair, or leave the comfort and responsibility of his wife and children to pursue his passionate relationship with coworker Lidia (Linda Caridi).
While the decision-making and motivations of certain characters can be strange and, at times, bordering on incomprehensible, the dramatic events that unfold from Aldo's ill-advised and indecisive choices are gripping to watch.
Powerful, poignant and full of praiseworthy performances, this is certainly worth a watch
Although the character of Aldo is relatively devoid of, well, character, both of his leading romantic interests are excellently portrayed. Caridi is fantastic as Aldo's forbidden girlfriend, Lidia, showing her conflicted feelings towards his actions and the awkwardness of their situation with subtle expressions and stunning line delivery. One particular scene, as Lidia gives Aldo an ultimatum on their relationship, is particularly impressive.
And both Alba Rohrwacher and Laura Morante are solid as the younger and older versions respectively of Aldo's wife, Vanda. The pair manage to brilliantly demonstrate the lasting, scarring emotional and mental impact that broken loyalty can have, leaving their mark on the audience long after the credits roll.
What prevents this film from reaching its full potential is the lack of chemistry between the married pair. Luchetti's decision to begin the movie at a point where their relationship is already at breaking point, refusing to provide any backstory on whether the couple ever truly loved one other, makes it difficult to become fully invested in their challenges. Without giving the audience a chance to establish a connection to their relationship, the impact of seeing it break down becomes slightly nullified.
Overall, though, this is a well-executed and original study of a familiar area of storytelling. Powerful, poignant and full of praiseworthy performances, this may not be the most cheery watch - but it is certainly worth a watch nonetheless.