Civil life, love, and politics don’t tend to coexist so harmoniously in Jacek Borcuch’s wonderfully crafted film Dolce Fine Giornata. Enrobed in decadent layers of family drama and metaphors of the times, Borcuch’s film quietly flourishes as both a love letter and critique of a Europe in question through the eyes of a poet. It premiered at Sundance earlier this year as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition and features pressing social beats regarding artistic privilege and immigration within the story of one writer’s existence in the Tuscany area.

Maria Linde (Krystyna Janda) enjoys her semi-retired life bathed in the arms of the beautiful Italian countryside, indulging in evening parties with her neighbors and family, and being the cool grandmother who’s lost the sense of worry and time. She’s quite the maestro with words, living in her own idyllic liberation and free of the woes that cursed her Jewish Polish parents back in the times of war. But this picturesque birthplace of the Italian Renaissance will soon be acclimated to Maria’s subversive taste.

This remarkable, complex woman is the center of her family; a bohemian matriarch, if you will. She’s often brought to reality by her Italian husband (Antonia Catania) and daughter (Kasia Smutniak), both of whom adore Maria as the kind of mother and wife whose bold reputation precedes her. She’s at her most tranquil in the company of her not-so-secret romantic companion, Nazeer (Lorenzo de Moor), an Egyptian immigrant who’s maybe half Maria’s age, yet just as much an intellectual drifter as she is. Her involvement with him is a marvel of integrations, her expat existence amidst the turmoil of foreign fears, and his life, by society’s control, as the foreigner now in the cold center of prejudice.

Played by the veteran Polish actress, Maria exudes a type of individualism that feels destined for greatness, yet vies to make the case that some forms of art arrive in grandiose moments of grief. A terrorist attack in Rome shakes up the community into a state of xenophobic flux, where locals are trying to grasp what this means for Italy’s political landscape. As Maria accepts a local award soon after, she uses her platform to make remarks some may not dare to say aloud. As the clash of criticism and interpretation impede on her, she makes the slight stance that such a somber event can be leveraged to represent art in its purest form. Now exposed to verbal condemnation, she observes the reactions of those around her and in the local sphere.

Dolce Fine Giornata could be Borcuch’s affectionately distant piece to a Europe in constant change, whose socially charged extremism casts detrimental blankets on what it means to be individual and unchained in the face of fear. These very ideas make Maria a personally complex character. You’re not sure whether to allow her the chance to cause uproarious statements or whether to condone her position.

Jacek Borcuch’s elegant direction, along with the script he co-wrote with Szczepan Twardoch, creates a meditation on self representation and the ensued consequences circling Maria. As we began the film rationalizing with Maria’s profound thirst for life and art, we grow weary yet fascinated at how she is increasingly a martyr of her own understanding. The film ends on a note as metaphoric as the catalyst for Maria’s expression. Once again, just like his drama All That I Love (2009), Borcuch vividly explores sociopolitical issues in broader, personal strokes.

My Rating

Directed by: Jacek Borcuch

Starring: Krystyna Janda, Antonia Catania, Kasia Smutniak, Lorenzo de Moor