Sergio Castellito co-wrote, directed and stared in this 2004 romantic drama about a respectable surgeon Timoteo (Castellito), whose operation is interrupted by the news of his daughter Angela's motorcycle accident. She is brought to his hospital where an operation is to take place, while the desperate father waits in front of the operation room. There, he has time to think, and the film further evolves by showing scenes from his sinful past.
In the flashback, we can see Timoteo's dissatisfaction with his marriage even before Angela was born, but, more importantly, the accent is on his relationship with Italia (Penelope Cruz), which began by him rapping her. For a long time he has kept a double life, in love with Italia, but too much of a coward to confess that to his wife. Time for a final decision must come some day, and we suspect it can't end well.
This was Castellito's biggest international success, and I can see why some would like it. Its heart is in the right place, and it has one great performance by Penelope Cruz. However, the flaws in it can't be reduced by its nobility. My main objection is that I couldn't believe, as the story suggested, that Italia was the greatest love of Timoteo's life. Sure, they are connected by the troubled past, but the relation on the screen was not as further developed as Castellito wished. It seemed to me, as harsh as it may sound, that he showed a relation based on lust, trying then to sell it as great love.
The photography is quite beautiful in some parts, but the director had constant problems with the tone of the picture. He lost every chance to establish it with the overuse of slow motion in the first half, which probably looked like an easy way out of the creative problem.
Penelope Cruz is, undoubtedly, a star of the film. On a deeper level, her Lucia doesn't believe in a happy conclusion of this romance. She lives in fear which soon turns into an obsession, and Cruz managed to show this with the necessary subtlety. As for Castellito's performance, I'm not so sure of its constancy. I kept changing my mind about his interpretation during and after the film, maybe because I've seen much better actors doing these types of roles (Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence comes to my mind).
My final impression is that Castellito wasn't able to surpass the picture's utter predictability. That doesn't have to be a flaw in these kinds of films, if a director is brave and skillful enough not to lead it through every single one of the usual steps. Castellito obviously didn't have the guts, and that's why the desired cathartic ending falls flat.