VOD film review: If I Close My Eyes, I’m Not Here
Ivan Radford | On 20, Sep 2015
Director: Vittorio Moroni
Cast: Elena Arvigo, Giorgio Colangeli, Vladimir Doda
Watch If I Close My Eyes, I’m Not online in the UK: FilmDoo
“If you want to know something, you first must know why you want to know it.” That’s the kind of lesson you can expect to learn from If I Close My Eyes I’m Not Here, a coming of age tale that manages to be equal parts affecting and affected.
Vittorio Moroni’s drama follows Kiki, a boy on the cusp of becoming a man. His growth, though, is stunted by the loss of his dad: Kiko spends his days not connecting with anyone – or anything – at school, and his nights mourning and hurting himself with pliers. In between, his mum’s new boyfriend (Beppe Fiorello) exploits him for manual labour.
Mark Manaloto is excellent as the isolated teen, smart and sensitive to a fault: his gentle presence couldn’t be more of a contrast to Fiorello, whose manly bonding attempts mostly involve smoking cigarettes in his car. That quiet sadness comes into focus when we spend time with Kiko on his own in a rescued old wreck of a bus, which has become a joint shelter and shrine for the boy – a fantastic piece of production design, full of odds, angst and ends.
Enter Ettore (Giorgio Colangeli), an elderly man who takes Kiko under his wing, offering not only friendship but intellectual stimulation. Conversations about Plato and lessons on algebra are as common as chasing each other around the house. After the awkwardness and nastiness of his step-dad, the chemistry between Colangeli and Manaloto is wonderfully convincing, full of empathy and mutual respect – the kind of relationship that has enough emotional sincerity to override the convenient cliches and predictable plotting.
Vitto Moroni shoots it all with an intimate air, an understanding of location, and a sense of restoring something old, remote and forgotten. If his sun-kissed visuals and fondness of fragility work in the film’s favour, though, they sometimes work too hard: a recurring voice over from Kiko, who muses on the meaning of existence while fondling pebbles and gazing at water, becomes so intently poetic that the script (co-written with Marco Piccarreda) distracts from the naturalism on display elsewhere. There’s being earnest and there’s being overwrought. Or, as Ettore might put it, there’s knowing something – and knowing why you want to know it.