Anna (Alba Rohrwacher) is a woman in her early thirties who works as an accountant at a large insurance firm. She lives with her long-time boyfriend Alessio (Giuseppe Battiston), a nice guy who thinks they should settle down and have a child. Anna, on the other hand, feels like the excitement has gone out of their relationship and when she meets Domenico (Pierfrancesco Favino) in her office, it isn't long before their clandestine chemistry turns into a fully fledged affair even though Domenico confesses to having a wife and two kids at home. The illicit lovers meet once a week for a few hours in a cheap motel, but soon it's not enough for Anna, who becomes increasingly needy.
ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL: Paul Simon’s lyric about 'the arc of a love affair" implies a rise and a fall. So it goes in What More Do I Want a gripping portrayal of an illicit liaison. The performances – particularly the astonishingly seamless turn by female lead Anna Rohrwacher (known to international audiences for her role in the popular art film I Am Love) – are heart-breakingly accurate. The cinema verité direction by Silvio Soldini not only creates a documentary feel, but is one of the few contemporary films in which employment of 'wobblecam’ actually seems a valid technique.
Like many relationships, the affair between Anna (Rohrwacher) and Domenico (Pierfrancesco Favino) begins innocuously enough. She works in the corporate world of the rag trade and he, when he isn’t teaching scuba diving, is a waiter struggling to make ends meet. He is married – naturally – but Anna is also in a relationship. Anna’s partner Giuseppo Battiston (Alessio) is a smart handy man who is a tad on the portly side but he trusts his woman absolutely and takes time to acknowledge his appreciation of her. The affair notwithstanding, Anna appears to love him too. Early on in the film she appears to consent to having children – a desire triggered by Anna’s sister giving birth at the film’s beginning. But while Anna ostensibly seems to welcome this development in her relationship, the narrative deftly suggests that Anna is also terrified of the commitment that it entails.
Is it just the terror of commitment that catapults Anna into the affair? The film is equally clear that Anna doesn’t succumb to the first flirtation thrown her way. There’s something in Domenico that is special to Anna regardless of whether that 'something special’ is destructive to her as well. The genius of the film, and of Rohrwacher’s performance, is that it never abandons her to judgement. She is like a trapped bird fluttering in a cage and this talented actress captures every nuance of a woman caught in a vortex of desire, indecision and panic. As the affair’s complications ensue and suspicions are aroused, it almost doesn’t matter what triggered the affair. What’s apparent is that deceitful actions allow the situation to get out of hand and that the affair – right or wrong – develops a life and a momentum of its own external to the pre-existing relationships.
While perhaps not exactly ideal film viewing to share with a loved one ('You’d never do that right?"), it is memorable viewing that perfectly catches the intersections between love and fear.