Summer in Genoa
How does a filmmaker create an atmosphere of slow-building dread? Not the obvious horror-movie slash-cut to a pop-up monster; that’s easy. We’re thinking of the kind of existential dread you get from Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 Don’t Look Now. Winterbottom could tell you, since he’s clearly gone to school on Roeg’s ghost story. After his wife dies in a car accident, Joe (Firth) takes his daughters Mary (Haney-Jardine) and Kelly (Holland)—who were both in the car—to Italy, where’s he’s secured a teaching gig for a year. Mary starts seeing her dead mother (Hope Davis), while Kelly begins exploring sex with the local boys. Joe, meanwhile, maintains a veneer of obliviousness to the romantic overtures of a friend (Keener) and one of his students (Romeo).
If you’re going to borrow from someone else’s film, Don’t Look Now is a good place to go. Digging deeply into the Roeg bag of tricks, Winterbottom relishes the shadowy interiors and winding alleys of Genoa. He cuts away from scenes seemingly in the middle, keeping us off-balance. He uses music sparingly but brilliantly. He cranks up the volume of mundane noises like the clank of silverware. The further in we get, the more we’re conditioned to fear what seems to be coming. And then Winterbottom pulls a neat trick, suggesting that grief and dread are kindred feelings.