Rosario Russo (Toni Servillo) is a man who has cut himself off from the past. Once a prominent member of the criminal underworld, he has since changed his name and settled down in Germany, married Renate (Juliane Köhler), had a son and opened a restaurant. This is where he plans to live out his days.
Then one day, the past comes knocking in the form of the son he abandoned in order to save his own skin. Rosario claims that if he hadn’t disappeared, his son would have been killed too, but, unsurprisingly, that’s of little comfort to Diego (Marco D’Amore). Problem is, Marco’s in the ‘game’, and it’s only a matter of time before everything Rosario has worked for will be under threat.
Director Claudio Cupellini aims for a slow burn approach here, and the film does take a while to get going. It never really explodes – the violence itself is rather discreet – so that we never find ourselves in similar territory to, say, A History of Violence. Instead, it’s up to taciturn Rosario to try and keep things under wraps in the subtlest way possible. Of course, this leads to all sorts of problems as he lies again and again to his wife.
This is part of the problem with A Quiet Life – we never get the sense that the titular life is all that great. Even before his past catches up, he seems a bit of a dick towards his employees and his wife, cantankerous with the former and rude to the latter. He is constantly doing things his own way and is apparently unreliable when it comes to driving his son to his various extracurricular activities. All this means that it’s difficult to like Rosario.
The pacing of the film almost becomes sluggish but picks up just in time, and from then on it’s a case of waiting to see how the mess is going to be resolved. Teho Teardo’s score is an absolute winner, and drives the film’s best sequences. Beginning with what sounds like a loop of a scratched vinyl record, it builds wonderfully, and this central theme is in fact used several times throughout the film.
A Quiet Life is a decent and understated thriller, and the central performance by Servillo is certainly impressive. Without ever taking it too far, he brilliantly exudes a forgotten menace, hinting at what Rosario used to do for a living. It’s just a pity that he doesn’t really seem to enjoy his new life, because this stops us from truly feeling for him when everything goes pear-shaped.Rating: