Working in a picturesque cafe in Southern Italy, Elena (Kasia Smutniak) dreams of owning her own business with her best friend Fabio (Filippo Scicchitano). When not toiling away at work, the pair enjoy spending time with their lively friend Sylvia (Carolina Crescentini). However, Elena is not too fond of Sylvia’s obnoxious mechanic boyfriend Antonio (Francesco Arca) who she has had several verbal sparring matches with. Antonio is the exact opposite of everything Elena stands for; he is loud, homophobic and curses up a blue streak. Fortunately for her, Elena only has to occasionally endure Antonio’s company…or so she thinks.
As plans begin to take shape for her business venture, with Elena’s fiancée Giorgio (Francesco Scianna) coming on board as an investor, Antonio begins to appear regularly at the cafe without Sylvia. Clearly the object of Antonio’s gaze, Elena finds it hard to deny that she is attracted to him as well. Fast-forward 13 years and Elena’s business, The Gas Station, is a hotspot in town. Her home life has seen a drastic change as well; she is the mother of two young children and married to Antonio. Which begs the question how did two people so different end up together?
Director Ferzan Ozpetek has a talent for displaying complicated relationships on screen; one only needs to look at his earlier work such as Facing Window and the volatile A Perfect Day for examples of this. In Fasten Your Seatbelts, he explores the impact of relationships that are primarily based on physical attraction. Elena and Antonio both know that their union falls into this category. Antonio barley speaks to Elena, spends all their money, and can’t be counted on to handle basic fatherly responsibilities. Elena, on the other hand, is driven by her work ethic and desire to provide for her children. The dynamics between the two provide a good source of drama in the film and leads to several twists in the latter acts.
Using flashbacks and focusing on body language, Ozpetek finds some rather invented ways to communicate the emotion, and relationship history, of his main characters without relying on much dialogue. He also shows a knack for working with child actors. In fact he makes the children the most perceptive characters.
Fasten Your Seatbelts is an old time dramatic story that perfectly feels at home with the Italian cinema of the fifties and sixties. If you are a fan of classic era relationship stories then you’ll enjoy this Ozpetek offering.
Tonight, 9:00PM, Royal Cinema
Sunday, November 30th, 3:00PM, Royal Cinema