REEL Review – Bad Tales (2020)

Director: Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo | 1h 38mins | Drama | Language: Italian

During a scorching summer just outside of Rome, tensions rise between a few suburban families. At the heart of them is their kids, who are influenced heavily by their parents behaviour.

The D’Innocenzo’s Bad Tales is a weird film, it creates tension in the strangest of places as well as finding an uncomfortable visual routine in the way it shoots it’s characters. This is the second feature from the directors, and more than likely it’s one that will stick with you for more reasons than one.

There is an eerie tension in the suburban mundanity the D’Innocenzo’s are showing; Families often complaining and existing outside the realm of what their children want or need, rather projecting abysmal behaviour onto their easily influenced eyes. At one point a child called Dennis is choking on steak while dining with his family and instead of paternal instincts kicking in, his father dips him upside down in order to remove the steak. In a flip of emotions his Father becomes infuriated about the interruption of their meal. Even in one of the most harrowing scenes, a young girl gets her head shaved because of lice, left to wallow in a puddle of her own hair as her parents walk away from her.

The parents are much more interested in their kids grades, flashing them as trophies and getting one over on their neighbours. In their minds if the kids are thriving academically, they are thriving parentally. But in the lessons that count, lessons of love, sex and life, the parents are nowhere to be seen. That’s why the film’s episodic structure is just a slew of disturbing questions raised about the nurturing of children by their parents. We see uncomfortable scenes of underage children debating sex, even two of them rifling through their Father’s search history. One scene in particular sees two of the men aggressively talk about how they want to violate a woman at a kids birthday party. The director’s are obviously creating an image of the horrifying side of parental influence, one that is controversial in it’s imagery and a little too coy on the point.

It’s reminiscent of the coming-of-age stories we see so often set in the months before school starts. The one’s about the endless summer, caught in a moment of joy and self-discovery, but Bad Tales feels like it’s deceitful twin.

Being set in the countryside of Italy helps the films beauty though, it has this radiant colour palette of yellows and vibrant oranges lighting the hot days of summer. It’s reminiscent of the coming-of-age stories we see so often set in the months before school starts. The one’s about the endless summer, caught in a moment of joy and self-discovery, but Bad Tales feels like it’s deceitful twin. The anti-summer film, where the kids journeys are dangerous and emotionally conflicted leading to a particularly tragic ending.

But, the film is a little too coy for it’s own good, maybe it’s about the dangers of under nurturing, or the false pretences of happy sun-kissed childhoods, but the Director’s don’t seem particularly keen on showing us the full meaning. The end sees a mass tragedy in the community, with only a young quiet boy and his Father manages to make it out of the suburban hell-hole. The problem with such a shocking ending is that it requires our full emotional connection to really feel the impact. But the films need to paint such grotesque characters, often using the camera to show us them in their most horrible forms, leaves us disconnected to all of them.

It’s a film that intelligently and horrifically shows us the dark side of parental guidance, as well as having gorgeous cinematography that only amplifies the pessimistic picture the D’Innocenzo’s are painting. But, the problem with having such horrifying and alien-like characters, is that we can’t fully involve ourselves in the impending doom that awaits them.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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