The Way We Laughed (1998)

GIANNI AMELIO

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

Original Title: Così ridevano

, 1998. , . Screenplay by Gianni Amelio. Cinematography by . Produced by , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , . Film Editing by .

Taking place over several individual days spread out over a four year period, this touching drama captures the struggles experienced by southern Italians moving north to find work through the story of two very different but deeply connected brothers. Giovanni ( ) comes to Turin in 1958 after having already sent his little brother Pietro () ahead to study there, ready to work hard to support his little sibling who shows promise as a schoolteacher, while Giovanni remains unable to read and write.

The older brother slowly establishes himself in the city, at first ashamed of his low origins in a place that is prejudiced against southerners, while Pietro avoids applying himself to his schoolwork and cheats his way through classes until an experience clarifies his brother’s sacrifices and causes him a great deal of guilt. From this point on, the brothers’ paths diverge in ways that lead to tragedy, as Pietro disappears from view entirely, while Giovanni establishes himself as a community leader running a work cooperative for men such as himself.

Gianni Amelio, who has a knack for finding the genuine tenderness in stories about men’s familial relationships, crafts a film whose sociopolitical background is always foregrounded by a poignant and human tale of two deeply flawed characters trying to bridge the gap between them. Pietro is oblivious to the effects of his unintentionally reckless youthful rebellion until it’s too late, and Giovanni seems destined to abandon the blind optimism that has him always believing the best about the wayward brother that he feels so strongly about supporting.

In the lead role, Lo Verso gives a masterfully guileless performance, impeccably capturing a sense of hopeful innocence that only makes you feel more sympathetic the more foolishly he behaves, while Giuffrida supplies a fiery anti-hero who runs afoul of our approval before finding himself crushed by the weight of an inescapable conscience. A powerfully emotional movie that is enriched by the weight of its sorrows but never bogged down by them.

Toronto International Film Festival: 1998

Venice Film Festival Award: Golden Lion

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