In '60s and '70s Italy, Accio Benassi (Elio Germano) is irritable, explosive and a trouble maker. He fights every battle like a war and his parents despair - especially when he signs up with the Fascists. His brother Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio) is handsome, charismatic and loved by all – especially the lovely Francesca (Diane Fleri), although underneath he is equally as dangerous – and a committed Communist. Things get complicated when Accio falls in love with Francesca, but even more complicated when Manrico's political passion boils over.
This immensely likable serio-comic tale of sibling rivalry is emblematic of the bitter political and social divisions that plagued Italy in the 1960s and '70s. Based on Antonio Pennacchi's novel The Fascio-Communist, the film borrows its title from an obscure collection of comic pieces written in the late Fifties by Jack Douglas, whose stock-in-trade was crafting gags for legendary US TV host Jack Paar.
Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio) is the brash older son of a working-class family in Latina, a town built by Mussolini outside Rome, who follows his father into factory work and gradually becomes a Communist activist. Rebellious younger brother Accio (Vittorio Emanuele Propizio) is kicked out of seminary and constantly fights with his brother and parents. There’s also a daughter, who remains a peripheral character.
A few years later, Accio (a seamless transition to Elio Germano) joins the local Fascist party, led by his friend Mario (Luca Zingaretti). This sets up a lingering battle between the brothers, with Accio’s girlfriend Francesca (a luminous Diane Fleri) in the middle.
Director Daniele Luchetti keeps the mood light and playful until the third act, when Accio’s affair with Mario’s wife has tragic consequences and Manrico is involved in violent incident. A sub-plot revolves around official corruption which sees some of the town’s residents denied the new housing they had been promised.
Luchetti favours lots of close-ups and hand-held camera shots, which bring the viewer close to the central characters and the unfolding events. There are winning performances all round, especially from Scamarcio and Germano, and Angela Finocchiaro as their harassed mother who tries in vain to keep the family together.
The screenplay by Luchetti and Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli (who wrote the acclaimed generational saga The Best of Youth) is packed with snappy dialogue and wry humour"¦ and the climax is truly explosive.