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TIFF23: I Told You So Is a Beautiful Italian Romp

Courtesy of TIFF

This year, Ginevra Elkann presents a beautiful adventure with the World Premiere of I Told You So (Te l’avevo detto) at TIFF. In this star-studded Italian romp, we see the intertwining lives of an in-home nurse, priest, Only Fans Popstar, a grieving scorned wife, and an alcoholic mother throughout the 24 hours of the hottest January day in Italian history.

The big story of I Told You So is the unfolding narrative about ex-best friends Gianna (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Pupa (Valeria Golino). Gianna is the scorned wife grieving her husband, highly medicated and fixated on the participation of Pupa in her husband’s downfall. Pupa was the biggest Pornstar of the ’80s in Italy; now, having aged out, she’s trying to revive her career through Only Fans and a Pop career. The slow unravelling of their falling out and unhinged relationship carries the film from beginning to catastrophic end.

Gianna’s daughter is Mila (Sofia Panizzi), living with an older woman (Marisa Borini) and taking care of her daily needs while struggling with internalized trauma from her childhood and the co-dependency of her mother. Mila’s life seems quite tragic concerning her youth and the overbearing weight of responsibility. She often compensates for her emotions with binge eating. With the introduction of a sweet delivery person, Mila’s life is given some hope with the butterflies of a possible romance while trying to take care of two mature women.

All stories seem to lead back to the church and Father Bill (Danny Huston), who has his problems but is readily available to help his community even if his sister (Greta Scacchi) has flown from the United States with their mother’s ashes to lay her to rest in her home country. These half-Italian, half-American siblings have a history of turbulence in their relationship, as it seems their mother was cruel. While Bill’s response was to become a heroin addict, his sister was to compartmentalize and move on. As Bill has become Father Bill, he is recovering and holding sessions for other addicts in his community.

A woman embraces a boy an a small dog.
Courtesy of TIFF

In particular, Bill is sponsoring Caterina (Alba Rohrwacher), who has been court-ordered to participate in sessions and maintain sobriety to regain custody of her son. On this 24-hour day of journeys, Ginevra Elkann leads us through I Told You So; it is Caterina’s son who sadly feels the loss of his mother and his beloved dog. To remedy the situation, Caterina effectively kidnaps her son with no real plan or intention to keep him.

In this depression comedy, which explores themes of drugs, religion, sex, death and food, we’re faced with many raw emotions and spectacular performances. However, there seems to be a lack of cohesion and conclusion. I Told You So is left fairly open-ended for the resting situation of each character, but we do see the overall change in the nature of our leads. I left wanting something more.

In general, the performances were grand, but with the storyline of Father Bill (Danny Huston) and his sister (Greta Scacchi), I found their portrayal of the material to poke holes in the foundation of their story and Scachi’s performance to at times feel ingenuine and irrational. Perhaps this confusion intentionally portrayed the ebbing flow of grief; however, I found it disappointing and poorly played.

There is so much of I Told You So that ties back to the heatwave rocking through Rome, and this treacherous environment pushes its characters to confront reality out of exhaustion. The film is a fascinating investigation of human nature, and I’m sure there would be much more to be unpacked upon a second watch.

Written by Isobel Grieve

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