Sunday, May 26, 2024

‘The Invisible Thread’ Gets Tangled in a Servicable Drama

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The Invisible Thread (Il filo invisibile) is an Italian movie that had it a bit more confidence it might have been an entertaining melodramatic affair. As it stands, it is an earnest movie grappling with emotions and issues much more complex and exciting than it wants to go. Nevertheless, there’s a really good film underneath the perfectly fine offering delivered. 

Marco Simon Puccioni shows throughout The Invisible Thread a talent for staging and shrewd visual irony. Co-written by Puccioni and Luca De Bei, the story, while admirable, comes across flat and inert. As a result, the finished product is something that, despite its bravado, feels timid and unsure.

invisible thread
Left to right: Leone (Francesco Gheghi), Simone (Franscesco Scianna) and Paolo (Filippo Timi)

Leone (Francesco Gheghi) is your average teenage boy with two gay dads, Paolo (Filippo Timi) and Simone (Francesco Scianna). The Invisible Thread essentially follows Leone and his fathers as they grapple with their crumbling marriage and Leone and his friends dealing with the highs and lows of being young. If you haven’t guessed by now, the title refers to how we are all connected. It’s also a reference to DNA as the rights of Paolo and Simone are part of the many plot threads running through The Invisible Thread.

Gheghi’s Leone does a good job as a boy trying to understand his father’s growing separation while also figuring out how to talk to the new girl. Scianna and Timi make for a believable couple and have a way of looking at each other with regret and longing that I found sweet. 

Paolo and Simone’s legal troubles are entangled with the issues of gay rights when it comes to who is a parent in the eyes of Italian law. Not only that but the perceptions and misconceptions that come from having gay parents or any heterodox non-heterosexual family. For example, many students at Leone’s high school think he is gay simply because his fathers are. He would love to put that misconception to rest if only so the new French girl in his class, Anna (Giulia Maenza), would notice him.

Luckily for him, she does. But only because she thinks Leone would suit her closeted twin brother Dario (Matteo Oscar Giuggioli). I found this aspect of the story the most interesting because it led to Anna realizing her prejudice while also admitting to herself. She likes Leone while also dealing with Dario’s fear of coming out and rejection.

Puccioni and De Bei have a scene late in the movie after Leone and Anna have had sex. The following day Leone and Dario bump into each other in the bathroom. Dario apologizes for his reaction when Leone tells him he wasn’t gay, only to be discovered by Dario’s mother. The scene works because it juggles so many things at once while cramming characters into tight space, making them look as uncomfortable as they feel.

Moments such as these reveal Puccioni’s cinematic sensibilities and highlight how the visual language is either rote or too polished for most of The Invisible Thread. Specifically, as the film opens, we are introduced to Leone and his family through a video for a class project he and his best friend Jacopo (Emanuele Maria Di Stefano) are making for school. It has the feel of a video made by teenagers today, but it’s too well put together in a way that feels cloying.

invisible thread
Leone (Gheghi) and Anna (Giulia Maenza)

But every once and a while, Puccioni and his cameraman Gian Filippo Corticelli do such an excellent job of juxtaposing emotions and scenery that it made me restless from the tepidness of the film’s rhythm. Also, the film’s soundtrack beating me over the head to tell me how to feel was salt in the wound.

I haven’t even mentioned that Leone’s dads are breaking up after twenty tears of marriage because Simone has been having an affair. A fact that Paolo discovers on their anniversary. To Puccioni and De Bei’s credit, they try to show that gay people are just as prone to being fallible as heterosexual people. The problem is that what Puccioni feels is shocking feels mundane. There’s nothing in The Invisible Thread that you can’t see on the CW. But it shows that while Italy may be more sexually open, it is weirdly not THAT sexually open.

Plus, while much of what The Invisible Thread tackles feel somewhat dated, the issue of gay parents being recognized by the state is sadly only too timely. But Puccioni and De Bei have this plot thread running underneath everything, but never in a way that feels connected. Likewise, Leone never feels all that particularly worried about it while his fathers wrestle with it when they’re not plotting their next payback against the other.

The perfect gay couple is a couple riddled with grudges, slights, begrudging compromises, and neglect that comes in every marriage that’s not adequately nurtured. Paolo’s friend Monica (Valentina Cervi) comforts him with tales of her husband’s affair. She doesn’t comfort him by telling him that she would have left him years ago if she was Simone.

The Invisible Thread does an excellent job of showing how much of the straight world is so busy idolizing and fetishizing gay people they forget that they are prone to outbursts and rash decisions. My favorite scene of the movie has the two ripping into each other as they tear at the scabs of their relationship, all while they circle each other amidst pristine model kitchen and bathroom set decor. It is a splendid visual contrast of the hollowness of the “perfect married couple” appearance contrasted with the realities of spending twenty years with another human being.

invisible thread
Left to right: Simone (Scianna), Leone (Gheghi), and Paolo (Timi)

But these moments are undercut by scenes where characters feel compelled to point out the obvious. Paolo pours Simone’s priceless wine collection down the drain only to have Leone point out that his father loved it dearly. Puccioni and De Bei’s script sometimes fears we may miss the obvious, and instead of trusting us, it wastes dialogue and time spelling it out or using music cues but none of it in a way that’s fun.

It’s all well and good, but it is not particularly entertaining. There’s a coziness to The Invisible Thread that feels out of place. It was to be gritty and messy but can’t bring itself to delve into the myriad of the emotions it’s dredging up. 

The Invisible Thread is a movie where the main character’s height of recklessness is taking drugs and climbing up a rock wall without proper equipment. Combine this with the climax of finding out who Leone’s actual biological father is; The Invisible Thread gets tangled but never in a way that’s broad enough or subtle enough, merely somewhere in between. There’s much to like in The Invisible Thread but sadly, not enough.

Images courtesy of Netflix

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