The Way We Laughed Reviews
At first, it seems, we are in for a study in contrasts. Even the movie's eloquent, sweeping, opening shot prepares us for this. The camera pans from the train, arriving in Turin on a misty January morning in 1958, to Pietro, the look of easy entitlement written over his pale features, clad in a creamy-beige overcoat, his thick black hair nicely coiffed, and finally, to his elder brother Giovanni, in dingy non-descript clothing, his tanned skin the evidence of hard work out-of-doors. Pietro, not wanting to be seen (is he ashamed to be seen with Giovanni?), hides behind a pillar and allows his elder brother to walk away, to find his way for himself. The sequel is almost predictable after this expressive shot.
Pietro turns out to be spoiled and callous. We soon discover that he has stolen 15,000 lire from his older sister and brother in law, poor though they are, and has assumed a more luxurious life-style than he or his hosts can afford. Giovanni's reaction to this is typical of his self-abnegating, all-forgiving love for his younger brother. He condones the theft (Pietro after all needs the money ? a student has to look good and live well), and makes a down-payment on the stolen money. As he takes his leave, he accuses his sister's apartment of being a sty, unfit for his brother to live in. He takes over the care of Pietro, at first supporting both of them by shoveling trash at an outdoor market.
As Giovanni becomes more involved in the plight of newly-arrived Southerners like himself, he becomes wealthier. We find him a year or two after his unassuming start as a trash-shoveller, letting out beds in a cavernous basement to wage-workers, and still a year later, the president of a co-operative which provides employment services, living in a nice apartment with a girlfriend from back home. For an illiterate Sicilian, initially ostracized in Turin because of his poverty and his accent, Giovanni knows how to survive. His brother in the meantime has been kicked out of school, and subsequently disappears. A fellow Sicilian who knew Giovanni and his younger brother tells Giovanni that Pietro was destined to be a problem-child, and what we have seen so far seems to confirm this.
From this point on, Amelio, who has skillfully presented these two contrasting characters, gradually undermines the contrast. Pietro, four years after the opening scene of the movie, has passed his orals with flying colors, thanks to a professor-for-hire, who promises "to teach three years in one". His drawn-out search for his brother, to tell him the good news, culminates in their reunion during a wedding celebration. Our first sight of Giovanni in a while is a long-enough-to-be uncomfortable shot of his back, before he leaves his basement office to reunite with Pietro?it is an effective shot which Amelio will use again, and, in this scene, enough to make us realize that Giovanni has changed. As they sit together during their reunion, Pietro seems to be aware that Giovanni has secrets to hide. "Some secrets we keep, even from brothers," he says, no doubt alluding to the days when he and his brother lived together, before his disappearance.
Dialogue between the two brothers always seems to be hard-won. In the first half of the movie, Pietro remains icily taciturn, with Giovanni filling up the tense silence with loving and encouraging words. Now, however, it is Giovanni's turn to be silent. Now Pietro fills the silence with words Giovanni barely seems to acknowledge. Whatever the reason for Giovanni's silence, we know, taught by our experiences in the first half of the movie, that it means trouble.
Ultimately, it is Pietro's sacrifice which will ensure his brother's continuing financial success, but one which will also compel him to spend the rest of his youth at a reformatory in Sicily, and ultimately a life in prison. In the final scenes of the movie, Pietro manages to get a long enough leave from reformatory to attend Giovanni's son's christening. We see him after the lapse of two years, but only after that same tantalizing shot, which delays the telling frontal-view of his face. His hair is long, his eyes abstracted and glazed over. Giovanni's words, as they often have done, stand in striking counterpoint to the evidence of our eyes. "You look well", he says as he holds his brother's face in his hands. One wonders how far Giovanni's inability to fully understand, or his refusal to understand, his brother has resulted in Pietro's misfortunes. Even when presented with the sad facts of his brother's situation?his time at the reformatory is up, he will soon be in prison?he cannot seem to come to terms with them. "You don't know what it means to love", he tells Pietro's custodian in one of the movie's final scenes. I find myself wondering at the end of the movie about the actual quality of Giovanni's love towards his brother.
[b]Way We Laughed, The:[/b] A tale of two brother's and their trials and tribulations in an poverty stricken Italy. Way We Laughed is a tragic tale about filial love coupled with desperation and how it ultimately shapes the relationships of people around them. At once intriguing as it is frustrating the film employs a fractured and ellipitical narrative that forces the audience to construct their own reasons on how certain events occur. Worth checking out if you're in the mood for an exotic depressant. (7 out of 10)