Many films aspire to become something that is both memorable and enjoyable. Some form of temptation must exist to procure an interest by moviegoers so that we can get sucked into the film’s atmosphere from the start to the end. Abel Ferrara’s Tommaso attempts to bring us in engagement with the director’s life back in Rome with incomplete potential.
The film deals with Tommaso (played by Willem Dafoe) living life out in Rome with his young wife Nikki (Cristina Chiriac) and their three-year-old daughter Deedee (Anna Ferrara). Tommaso is a former addict and has built a life to find some absolute serenity. Throughout the entirety of the film, he remains clean and sober. His partner Nikki is a young beauty, and Deedee is what keeps them bonded. Tommaso has many activities he partakes in: lessons on speaking the Italian language, regimens of extreme yoga, a therapy-like group for recovering addicts, and cooking for the family. Even though he stays occupied, he cannot make time for his work as an indie film director.
Dafoe, in his fifth collaboration with Ferrara, commands the screen as an evolving characterization of a filmmaker who has been sober for six years. He combats with his dark side intelligently, bringing it out when necessary to advance/halt any conflicts he comes across. His character also comes in contact with wanting to make out with anyone he is with, not just his wife. It is a battle of addiction that he succumbs to throughout the whole film.
The cinematography is done very well, and the music flows along nicely. The story feels alive as each scene feels vibrant, especially with Dafoe finding some angle to keep one watching.
The problem is the film moves very slowly in dealing with a relationship that is breaking down. It never gets to the proper exclamation point of the story as we repeatedly watch group sessions come back again here and there, and the relationship between Tommaso and Nikki is so on-and-off. It takes nearly half the movie’s runtime before any tension develops between them. Maybe Ferrara wanted to depict it much more realistically, but it becomes very sluggish and somewhat indulgent.
It is a loose-structured feature injected with some vivacity. Ferrara should have kept it much more condensed, so the beats could keep hitting. The film had an extra 20-30 minutes that were unnecessary in conveying the theme of a plunging relationship. And unfortunately, psychology failed to be dramatic as well.
There isn’t that one scene to ensure a viewer will come back to this film (other than maybe Dafoe’s character raging with profanity on the streets). It’s difficult to tell if Ferrara wanted this to be about the uncontrollable anger that sometimes gets to men or a homebody fatale that betrays a person who has cleaned up their act. It is like watching a pro-wrestling match where you have the performers going out and doing their part, but the match cannot kick into high gear since a crucial element was missing.
Ferrara was onto a relevant topic about the aspect of love becoming devalued between men and women. We exist in a world where love can come and go in the snap of someone’s fingers. He did not strike as powerfully as he could have in Tommaso. Fortunately, Dafoe does his best to remind us why he is one of Hollywood’s most resourceful actors and keeps the attention rolling with his presence.