Bianca and Alessio steal moments together on a bus in 'Come Undone.'

'Come Undone' Disrupts Domesticity

Dennis Harvey February 11, 2011

Infidelity can happen to the nicest people. The randomness with which we (hopefully) meet our soul mates means that there are quite likely umpteen—that's a rough estimate—other ones that coulda-been out there, just floating around. If not soul mates, then folks with whom you might feel irresistible chemical attraction, at the very least. What if smack in the middle of your settled, contentedly partnered life you met one of them? Suddenly nice guy or gal is going to morph into Cheating Cad or Scarlet Woman in the eyes of the world. And you weren't even looking.

Such a scenario unfolds in Come Undone, the latest by veteran Italian writer-director Silvio Soldini, on SFFS Screen at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas this week. His protagonists are two ordinary Milanese who aren't searching for diversion or disruption in lives that are already quite well mapped out for the duration.

Bianca (Alba Rohrwacher), a pixieish blonde who resembles Anne Heche, works as valued accountant at an upscale firm. She spends her hours off cohabiting with ultra-laidback longtime boyfriend Alessio (Giuseppe Battiston), who for his genially hefty part looks more like Kevin Smith. Catalonian emigré Domenico (Pierfrancesco Favino) is undervalued right-hand-man for a demanding caterer, has a stressed wife Teresa Saponangelo as Miriam), two very young children and a stack of pills forever piling higher than his earnings can reach. Neither of these people are at a place where it's remotely feasible to upset the apple cart.

Yet when they first meet, at a party, there's a detectible flicker of mutual interest. When by chance they meet again, the attraction is downright discombobulating. Information is exchanged, ostensibly just to meet for "coffee," but you know where that can lead. Which it does, as by and by both are lying to their spouses in order to spend stolen hours in a garish love motel.

Yes, the sex is spectacular. But what's really dangerous here is the deeper feelings they have for each other. When they agree it would have been better had they met long before, it's not just wistfulness—fate has clearly made a horrible mistake in waiting so long. Now, at the very least, they must betray those they already love (if perhaps less intensely). At worst, they'll have to wound, abandon and alienate them, too.

This is a common-enough scenario in life, and in movies as well. Soldini (whose prior drama Days and Clouds also played the SFFS Screen) distinguishes Come Undone by keeping his protagonists shorn of movie glamour and high histrionics. Neither of them are raving beauties, just averagely sorta-attractive people with average likable personalities and the usual modest foibles. Their story isn't a tragedy or a grand romance, but an everyday mess of the sort you hope never happens to you or your friends. (When Bianca's friends catch wind, they feel almost as betrayed for Ale's sake as Miriam does for her own.)

That the lead actors look vaguely familiar—you may have seen Rohrwacher as part of Tilda Swinton's clan in I Am Love, while Favino has played support roles in English-language mall flicks like Angels & Demons and Night at the Museum)—only heightens the sense that these are people you know in real life, or close enough.