This was a captivating view into Italian patriarchy and the horrendous shame struggle it perpetuates between men and women. Towards the end I kept laughing – OMG this is exactly what Italian men are like, why do Italian men do this, look at her blackmailing away, I could not STAND to live in a relationship based on mutual disrespect, distrust and constant manipulation but apparently it is accepted as normal???, etc.
I started watching without much hope, because it looked like the film was going to follow the usual path of focusing on the dude’s struggles and tribulations without much meaning. To my surprise, the film totally balanced itself between the father and mother’s story — or more appropriately, the husband and wife’s story, as the children are practically invisible to their lives until they either assert themselves, or become pawns in this endless power/emotional/blackmail style struggle by either the male or the female members of the family in trying to inflict shame on the opposite gender. Even the grandparents get into it. The whole framework results in this strange overreactive auto-defence mechanism on the part of the dad/husband where a compliment to his son is interpreted as a slight to him – an intensely defensive style of narcissism which feels enculturated rather than psychological.
The twist is the era – the 1970s – with feminism making movements into Italy, and the wife’s realisation of her own right to personhood. The consequences of this does not necessarily make for a happier marriage, but it makes for happier individuals, and the eldest child (the narrator) acknowledges this with his verbal postscript. It’s such a different take on the usual Italian farcial romances, I really enjoyed this.