LFF 2020: Bad Tales – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 38 minutes, Directors – Fabio D’Innocenzo, Damiano D’Innocenzo

In the heat of the Italian summer family rifts are caused as a group of parents begin to act out in anger against their children, who themselves are discovering more of the world and themselves.

The height of summer is often a time when anger rises. The heat adds to stresses and tensions. It further boils upset over and, as many films have depicted in the past, causes many troubles both in the streets and in the privacy of your own home, although it can often cause the walls to become unrecognisable; adding to the swirling effects of the heat. In Bad Tales – the second feature of brothers Dabio and Damiano D’Innocenzo – the heat adds to already tense relationships between parents and their children. Over the course of the 98 minute run-time, almost feeling like an anthology, anger rises and on many occasions spills over, with repercussions for the young kids. It’s a film largely compromised of such ideas – parents unnecessarily lashing out, and taking out their problems, on their children.

At one early instance a father shakes his child upside down to stop them from choking, before walking off and crying and blaming the child for his response. With much more to come it’s already safe to say that this is certainly one to put in the book of bad movie parenting. There isn’t often much character development or huge elements of plot throughout the film, it mostly follows the lines of the characters and their behaviours and actions over the course of the summer, and how one or two scenarios have knock-on effects into others peoples lives and personal problems. There’s a lot to keep track of, with both the adults and kids being followed and almost all in different places at one time. A great many characters are present and the film tries to pack a lot in during it’s fairly short run-time – reducing most scenes to snapshots of its near-anthology style.

With their parents acting in random acts of rage and making home feel unsafe the kids each go out to explore the world. A world which they seemingly know little about apart from what they wish it to be in their ideals and what they’ve heard from grown-ups. Thus ensues various chasings of relationships, dark thoughts and encounters. They’re discovering themselves and developing that way, however often their discoveries or want to discover more about themselves leads to them acting on their initial instincts. One child is told, by an adult who initially seems like one of the only good people in the film, to “go and stare at girls in their swimsuits”. It’s an unsettling remark and only leads to more rather uncomfortable moments and exchanges not just within this section of the narrative but within the lives of each of the young members of the cast.

At a number of points the question could be asked to whether this film is trying to be a comedy, or at least have some comedic tones. And while this might be the case, the nature of some of the dialogue and actions within the piece simply overshadow this point and remove any humorous potential, even if in a dead-pan style. The film simply goes along its lines of bad people doing bad things to each other, or rather specifically their children, and describes itself rather well in the line “this senseless, sad and even pessimistic story”. Some have described this as a fairy-tale – a dark, twisted one at that, as many classics often turn out to be – yet, the film never really seems to have any fantastical elements or anything aside from its constant depictions of family abuse and childhood development influenced by slanted adult views. It’s a sort of anthology with repetitious depictions of negative humanity that stop comedy – if that is what the film is aiming for – from coming through. It’s just lucky that the autumn comes through to hopefully cool down the heated anger and discomfort of the summer.

Bad Tales may be aiming for dead-pan comedy of sorts, however it’s tone and angered characters simply don’t allow it to come through. What we end up with is a slightly repetitive selection of snapshots all similar in content and style, which appears to be angered abuse and occasional discomfort.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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