The Double Hour is creepy. An Italian romance swaddled in a thriller, director Giuseppe Capotondi’s film likes to mess with minds, both the audience’s and its protagonists’. There are thumps and phones ringing to break up dead silence; there are glimpses of ghosts that may or may not be real. Its narrative isn’t always linear, further clouding our viewing.
The Double Hour is also lame. After setting up a fantastic and disturbing spook story, Capotondi and his trio of writers offer a twist that’s more Dallas than I-see-dead-people. There’s another minor twist after that that adds a layer of intrigue, but it’s difficult to get past this insultingly facile explanation of all those bumps in the night to care a whole lot about what happens in the film’s final final chapter.
Discussing the plot without giving too much away would be impossible. When the story opens, we meet Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport), a Slovenian who’s living in Turin and working as a hotel maid. She’s at a speed-dating event and seemingly not too happy about it, but when she’s paired with the similarly mopey Guido (Filippo Timi), it seems a perfect match. Guido, a former cop and speed-dating veteran, is good-looking but depressing in a way that makes your skin crawl, an air that’s verified when he kicks out a woman he’s just slept with and throws a bottle at the door when she mentions she doesn’t have his number. But, alas, maybe it’s because he can’t get Sonia off his mind! Doesn’t exactly justify the outburst, but let’s go with it.
Going with it, at least regarding the romance, is what you’ll have to do to accept the movie’s thriller half. Sonia and Guido soon begin a courtship, but as we see it, it’s one that seems to involve only a date or two before a crime takes place. Really, though, they’ve fallen in love by this point, and their bond is strong enough to survive the trauma. You won’t be feeling it—better to focus on the film’s otherworldly tingles and suspend disbelief in terms of its emotional hollowness.
If Timi’s Guido is meant to be dark and guarded, the actor, a cross between Javier Bardem and a young Al Pacino, succeeds superbly. But it’s Rappoport who carries the film: Her Sonia is anguished by more than one sorrow (her estrangement with her father becomes a significant plot point) so she generally sleep-walks through life when she’s not being scared senseless by it. (Both actors won prizes at the Venice Film Festival.) Antonia Truppo and Fausto Russo Alesi also turn in stellar minor performances as a melancholic party girl and a creepy hotel guest, both of whom haunt Sonia in their own ways. In the end, a character is double-crossed and heartbroken. But so is the audience, led on by a film that ultimately torpedoes its early promises of excellence.