“The Neighbor” (titled “Hotel Milan” in Italy) is the fifth feature film written and directed by Pasquale Marrazzo. Focusing on a gay male couple, the piece examines self-expression and the freedom to love whomever our heart chooses while existing in a world of intolerance and hate.
The film stars Michele Costabile and Jacopo Costantini as Riccardo and Luca, two gay men who are constantly harassed and violently attacked by a group of vicious bigots and homophobes.
The couple’s intense and powerful relationship is crippled after a beating that lands Luca in the hospital, fighting for his life. The seeds of parochialism find healthy soil and come to full ugly bloom in the relationships with their respective families.
As Luca’s mother, father, and sister gather at his bedside, Riccardo is banned from coming to see the man he loves, as Luca’s family is religious.
The reason Riccardo has a long connection to his attackers and failed to act is one of the screenplay’s issues. The revelation is a bit too “on the nose” and the moment is presnted in a clunky manner that may be too confusing for those not paying close attention.
Another pothole in the film’s drama is the relationship between Riccardo and his mother. We learn the woman abandoned him as a child and that she is an addict who apparently suffers from manic depression. On top of all the other issues in his life, Riccardo cannot deal with the emotional burden that is his broken mother.
The film fails to handle their relationship effectively. Their long phone conversations are too aloof and cannot convey the depth of the pain caused by their fractured communications.
In the picture’s best moments, Riccardo pleads with Luca’s sister Rachele (Luisa Vernelli) to be allowed to see him.
Out of loyalty to her parents (who she knows are wrong), Rachele refuses to disclose the name of the hospital her brother has been admitted to. Rachele is the most grounded and well-crafted character in the film. Vernelli perfectly captures a woman torn by family and her own good heart. It is in the character and her connections to all involved that the film finds its gravitas.
Marrazzo’s fractured structure might not have been the right touch, as it never finds an even flow, yet the flashbacks to the early stages of Riccardo and Luca’s relationship work. These moments give some understanding to who these men are and why they are so special to one another.
The filmmaker gives the audience a dramatic puzzle to solve, but his style is too detached. There are issues in the editing where abrupt cutting is meant to feel natural, but too often causes the drama to become fractured. Just as we get involved, there is a jump that takes us out of the moment and expects viewers to immediately shift their attention to the next dramatic shift. Unfortunately, this kind of style muddies the waters of interest from time to time.
The cast does fine work (especially Luisa Vernelli) and the story is important, especially in the divided world of today. Pasquale Marrazzo explores some of the more dominant social issues that remain an ongoing threat to the LGBTQ+ communities around the world but fails to dissect them.
The successes come in small doses of a few effective dramatic moments. The rest of the film scrambles around searching for profundity, major scenes done in by a handheld camera style that is distracting.
With a screenplay that should have dug deeper, “The Neighbor” is not a full loss, but exists as a film unfinished.
Written and Directed by Pasquale Marrazzo
Starring Michele Costabile, Jacopo Costantini, Luisa Vernelli
NR, 96 Minutes, Uncork’d Entertainment