Third act redeems war tale 'Twice Born'
By Roger Moore
Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
“Twice Born” is an old-fashioned war romance with all the sexing-up and complications we expect in newer entries in this genre. Overlong, with stars who don't have a lot of chemistry, but packed with third-act surprises, this Bosnian war remembrance needs every ounce of pathos that its stars, Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch, can bring it.
Jemma (Cruz) is an Italian academic with a teenage son. Her policeman / husband isn't the boy's father. Nor was her first husband, an architect. No, young Pietro's parentage is more complicated, something we discover through the lengthy flashback inspired by her return (with Pietro) to Sarajevo, summoned there by an old friend, Gojco (Adnan Haskovic).
Back then, on the eve of the Sarajevo Olympics, she was doing research in Bosnia, where the biggest concern of the locals was whether they'd have snow for the winter games. Married Jemma meets hunky fashion photographer Diego (Hirsch), who pursues her in that aggressive American way.
“Drop everything and run away with me,” he purrs. “Every day will be a party with me, baby.”
She resists the attentions of the younger man. Until she doesn't.
And then the war starts.
Director Sergio Castellitto bounces this narrative back and forth between the present, with Jemma dealing with some aching loss in her past, and different points in that past; a courtship, a birth, the horrors of war.
Novelist Margaret Mazzantini, who co-wrote the script, gives everyone a sort of Serbian fatalism about the genocidal civil war.
Gojco, back then, was Jemma's flirtatious poet-guide to the country. He has the best lines. “Poetry is God when he feels nostalgic for man.”
The sweeping setting, sad characters and sexy stars give this a touch of “The English Patient.” But “Twice Born” fails to tug at the heartstrings or wring tears from us. Hirsch plays exuberant and callow well, Cruz is tragic and earthy as ever. But the two of them never really click — sex scenes included.
Still, when the third act rolls in and the surprises start piling up, when events from long ago are shown through a more-accurate lens, “Twice Born” rises to something nobler and closer to heartbreaking. And that's exactly what cast, crew and novelist were going for.
Roger Moore is a staff writer forMcClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.