After enjoying critical acclaim here in Venice with The Solitude of Prime Numbers, Saverio Costanzo returns with the second Italian film in competition. Based on Marco Franzoso’s novel Il
Jude (Adam Driver) is an American who meets Italian Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) in that most romantic of settings – a public toilet – in the funniest scene of the film. After this, the laughs fade as Jude and Mina fall in love and marry when Mina becomes pregnant. As her pregnancy progresses, Mina has a recurring dream of a faceless man appearing on their wedding night and shooting a deer. As Jude tries to soothe her, Mina sees it as a harbinger of doom. This is partially lifted thanks to a clairvoyant, who informs Mina that she is expecting an indigo child, a New Age term to describe special or supernatural children. Finding a doctor who advocates natural childbirth, Jude promises his wife that she will not undergo surgery. After her C-section, Mina sees her operation as Jude’s betrayal and her feelings of isolation are exacerbated when they take the baby home.
This indigo baby does not leave the house for months, the couple do not receive visits and the child is on a vegan diet. Again, Jude goes against Mina’s wishes when he sneaks their son to a doctor. The only other presence in their post-natal lives is Jude’s mum Anne (Roberta Maxwell), who convinces Jude to let the emaciated baby stay with her. When Mina arrives to see her child she is confronted with her worst nightmare. The walls are covered in stags’ heads – not just one over the fireplace; they’re everywhere. Also over the fireplace is a shotgun. And now we have more than an inkling of what Mina’s recurring dream might mean.
One of the major problems with this film is that it is just too improbable. Jude is a likeable and accommodating husband, but it seems strange that this New Yorker would allow his wife to treat their baby to such an extreme. And although we understand Mina’s isolation, her fears and her acceptance of the clairvoyant’s words above those of a doctor or her partner do not ring true. Driver is excellent as this poor sap caught up in a situation that he sees no way out of. After her lovely performance in Le Meraviglie, Rohrwacher is not so convincing here, though physically she fits the part. Maxwell also struggles, though that might be the fault of the script.
On leaving the cinema, an enthusiastic Italian journalist asked whether I liked the film. Responding in the negative, she retorted “maybe it’s because you’re a bit vegan”. Madam, I am a carnivore and this meat was dry, overdone and frankly just too hard to swallow.