My Brother is an Only Child

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Director: Daniele Luchetti; Release date: 4 April

Daniele Luchetti's critically acclaimed film won five prizes in Italy's Donatello film awards in 2007. It is set in the small town of Latina, originally called Littoria, one of the new towns established when the malaria-ridden Pontine Marshes were drained by Mussolini's fascist regime in the 1930s. Latina's close association with Mussolini is central to the film.

Accio is a rebellious teenager whose quest for meaning in life leads him to enrol at a seminary and then to leave it in disgust when he recognises its denial of the human spirit. But his rebelliousness is also directed at his older brother, Manrico. Rather than accept Manrico's atheism and socialism, Accio is now drawn towards the illusory community of the nation. Befriended by one of its leading local figures, he joins the fascist MSI party.

Fascism, however, offers only nostalgia and kitsch, scratched records of Il Duce's speeches and tricolour towels flogged on street markets. Accio's sojourn in the MSI lasts only long enough for him to explore his awakening sexuality with his MSI friend's frustrated wife and get himself beaten up for lack of respect for the party leader. Critical of the MSI's anti working class elitism, and shocked by its terror attacks on the left, especially when Manrico is targeted, Accio soon drifts away from the party.

His dashing brother has meanwhile become a militant in the Communist Party-led CGT union. The conflicts within the family intensify when Accio meets Manrico's beautiful girlfriend/comrade, Francesca. He promptly falls in love, and the triangular relationship between Manrico, Accio and Francesca forms the core of the film. This relationship is complicated by the fact that Francesca becomes pregnant at the same time that Manrico is seduced by the free-love ethos of the late-1960s.

Luchetti's film attempts to show that individual lives unfold against a backdrop of long-term social change, such as transformed gender and sexual relations, and that they can be radically changed by short-term political change, such as the strike wave of Italy's "hot autumn" in 1969, the bombings and shootings of the "years of lead"¶â€š and growth of the Red Brigades terror group in the 1970s.

But, since these events form a largely episodic backdrop, the articulation of the personal and the political is ultimately unexplored and unconvincing. It is not clear, for instance, what political and intellectual processes lead Manrico on the journey from union militant to the lunacy of left wing terrorism.

In the film's press release the director says that it is not political, does not take a political stand and merely observes those who do. Whether for this reason or others, Luchetti has produced a film that is interesting, entertaining and provocative in parts, but ultimately disjointed and not fully satisfying.