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Originally published Friday, May 6, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

A miscreant in a white coat

Those of us lucky enough to have good friends know that we can count on them to say something when we're being foolish and destructive. Sadly, Rome surgeon Timoteo (Sergio...

Special to The Seattle Times

Those of us lucky enough to have good friends know that we can count on them to say something when we're being foolish and destructive.

Sadly, Rome surgeon Timoteo (Sergio Castellitto), the dominant figure in the Italian drama "Don't Move," isn't so lucky. The seemingly imperturbable yet recklessly impulsive doctor — who sexually assaults a troubled woman (Penélope Cruz) then has an affair with her — is surrounded by colleagues, associates and a long-suffering wife, Elsa (Claudia Gerini), who stifle their shock and concern over his behavior.

When Timoteo shows up at the hospital where he works accompanied by Italia (Cruz), who is in medical duress, his demeanor clearly suggests the two are intimately involved. Yet a nurse who knows Timoteo well, visibly stunned by his obvious infidelity, thinks better of saying anything. Later, when Timoteo reveals to an old comrade — someone with whom he has traded banalities about extramarital sex — that he is in love with Italia, the fellow walks off in wordless repulsion.

Movie review 2.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Don't Move," with Penélope Cruz, Sergio Castellitto, Claudia Gerini. Directed by Castellitto, from a screenplay by Castellitto and Margaret Mazzantini, based on Mazzantini's novel "Non Ti Muovere." 124 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (includes scenes of intense sexuality and some nudity). In Italian with English subtitles. Metro.

Elsa herself silently endures suspicions her husband is carrying on with another woman. No wonder Timoteo lives in a kind of echo chamber, affected only by a singular point-of-view that drives him into a sad entanglement with Italia, whose troubled soul he never bothers to fully understand.

Timoteo's narrow, self-referential perspective is the engine of "Don't Move," but it's also, ultimately, the film's undoing.

It's true that Cruz and Castellitto (star of Giuseppe Tornatore's 1995 hit "The Star Maker" and director of "Don't Move," based on a novel by his real-life wife, Margaret Mazzantini) both picked up Italy's equivalent of Oscar awards for their intricate, sometimes startling performances in this movie. At times their characters seem to be grasping for something ineffable neither can truly provide for the other. But in his fundamental role as a storyteller, Castellitto fails to express the voices of other characters whose own pain, hopes and desires are a part of the same world Timoteo occupies. With "Don't Move's" cinematic universe absolutely organized around one man, the narrative narcissism at times becomes preposterous.

The story's very structure, beginning years after the affair, finds Timoteo and Elsa's 15-year-old daughter, Angela (Elena Perino), undergoing emergency surgery following a motorbike accident. While Timoteo awaits word on Angela's fate, he is haunted by memories of Italia. There is an emotional connection: Angela was conceived while Timoteo was hiding his romance with Italia from Elsa. But would someone even as self-centered as Timoteo wallow in such melodrama while his child faces death?

Worse is Castellitto's obliviousness to the full meaning of Italia's visible, all-encompassing despair.

Timoteo rapes her — there can be no other word for it — then parlays his apology into a relationship in which bleak details about her life splatter meaninglessly like random raindrops. There are times we see Italia teetering on the edge of insanity, and we can only make educated guesses why.

Castellitto directs "Don't Move" with the flowing, feverish intensity of memories charged by sensual longing and aching regret. This is a very watchable movie, but in the end it's like realizing you've spent a couple of hours in the company of an outwardly civilized jerk.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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