The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - THREE FLOORS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - THREE FLOORS

three floors review
The interconnecting lives of the residents of a Rome apartment block.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Nanni Moretti

Starring: Margherita Buy, Riccardo Scamarcio, Alba Rohrwacher, Adriano Giannini, Elena Lietti, Alessandro Sperduti, Denise Tantucci, Nanni Moretti

three floors poster

With his masterpiece The Son's Room, Nanni Moretti gave us one of cinema's great explorations of parenthood. His latest film features not one but three loosely connecting stories entwined around parents' relationships with their offspring. Yet Three Floors - which sees Moretti adapting someone else's work for the first time, Israeli author Eshkol Nevo's 2017 novel 'Shalosh Qomot' - couldn't be more different from The Son's Room. The quiet contemplation of that movie is largely replaced by melodrama, with some plot beats resembling a soap opera.

The difference between The Son's Room and Three Floors can be summed up by their closing scenes. The former ends with a beautiful moment of spontaneity as the parents of a dead teenager make a spur of the moment decision to drive their son's girlfriend the hundreds of miles back to her hometown. Three Floors closes out with an oxymoronical image of manufactured spontaneity - an "illegal tango," which sees dozens of dancers pass by the apartment building at the centre of the movie. The tango has been pre-planned however, and so it has none of the spontaneous romance Moretti and his characters seem to take from it.

three floors review

As its title suggests, Moretti's film tells three stories set among the denizens of an upper middle class apartment block in Rome. All three have the potential for successful standalone movies in their own right, yet somehow all three feel simultaneously overstretched and undercooked.

The strongest of the stories, or at least the story with the strongest potential, begins as something of a riff on Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret as it concerns a character intent on punishing someone who may not have even committed a crime. Lucio (Riccardo Scamarcio) and Sara (Elena Lietti) often leave their young daughter Francesca with their elderly upstairs neighbours Giovanna (Anna Bonaiuto) and Renato (Paolo Graziosi). One day Lucio comes home to find Renato has vanished with Francesca. He finds the pair in a nearby park and assumes the worst. Despite an investigation by the authorities and the word of his daughter, no wrongdoing is found to have occurred. Lucio can't accept this and sets out to prove that Renato abused his daughter. To help him, he enlists the aid of Renato and Giovanna's teenage daughter Charlotte (Denise Tantucci), who is smitten with Lucio.

This story is so captivating that its two companions come off as unwanted distractions whenever it cuts away. It begins as a compelling examination of how a media fuelled society has conditioned parents to adopt a cynical view of their neighbours, viewing everyone as a potential boogeyman. The intense-eyed Scamarcio makes for a gripping protagonist, consumed by his belief that he knows more than the experts (isn't that a storyline for our times). He's a keyboard warrior made flesh, ignoring all evidence that goes against his personal conspiracy theory. Sadly, this storyline gets sidetracked by Charlotte's seduction of Lucio, which ironically sees him accused of the very same thing he believes Renato is guilty of.

three floors review

The weakest of the three stories is one of those cases where you suspect a male storyteller is out of his depth. It concerns new mother Monica (Alba Rohrwacher), who begins suffering what appears to be post-natal depression. Her husband, Giorgio (Adriano Giannini), is largely absent, away working on construction. As she's left alone with her child she becomes increasingly unhinged to the point where she begins to hallucinate encounters with people who aren't there. This storyline slips out of Moretti's hands to the point where it ends in a manner that's not so much ambiguous as unfinished.

Falling in between is the tale of Andrea (Alessandro Sperduti), a troubled teen who kills a woman while driving drunk one night. His father, Vittorio (Moretti), is a judge who refuses to take his son's side, while his mother, Dora (Margherita Buy), wants to stick by her son despite his actions. The father-son dynamic is squandered and expressed in bursts of violence that are difficult to swallow. We're told through dialogue of their history, but Moretti's filmmaking never does enough to show rather than tell us about these two men.

three floors review

That's an issue throughout Three Floors. We learn too much about these characters through their words rather than their actions, and the camera rarely seems to be pointed at someone's face when they're thinking rather than talking. Could this really be the same filmmaker who made The Son's Room, a movie about a therapist who ironically can’t express his own grief? In a particularly cheap conceit, Dora expresses herself through unheard messages left on an answering machine. Her husband, we're told, has never allowed her to truly express her feelings. That's something the film is guilty of with regards to Dora too however.

Fortunately for Moretti, he's enlisted a knockout ensemble. Aside from miscasting himself (Moretti is far too avuncular for the cold-hearted character he plays here), Moretti has populated his film with some wonderful performers. Despite the film's fluffing of her lines, Buy is outstanding, propping her half-baked storyline on her shoulders. But there's only so much weight she and her fellow cast members can carry. By the time of that previously mentioned unearned blast of fake spontaneity, you'll likely have lost interest in the inhabitants of these three floors.

Three Floors
 is in UK cinemas and on VOD from March 18th.

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