STARRING: WILLEM DAFOE; CRISTINA CHIRIAC; ANNA FERRARA
DIRECTED BY: ABEL FERRARA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
I don’t think Tommaso will have the same impact on audiences as it did on me. It’s about human pain and suffering, an autobiographical telling of director Abel Ferrara’s life, his struggles with addiction, and told through the narrative of a feature film. It’s a weird mix, because it is partially fiction, partially fact, and in the middle are odd hallucinations and fears of a man. Willem Dafoe stars, a regular collaborator with Ferrara, as the title character, playing an American, living in Paris with his younger wife Nikki (Cristina Chiriac- Ferrara’s actual wife) and child (Anna Ferrara), teaching theater classes, going to AA meetings, and living one day at a time. It may sound boring to some, watching the existence of a man, but Tommaso is an out of body experience, like looking out a window and seeing your own life pass by in front of you. For me, Tommaso has a complete understanding of what it means to be alive and like many of us, it’s complicated.
Take a scene halfway through, Tommaso sees his wife and daughter, they’re walking down the street, when all of a sudden, little Anna bolts in front of a car. It’s shocking and easily traumatic for anyone with children. It feels real and painful, but it turns out to only be in Tommaso’s mind. There are many scenes like these that shock and create fear. It is a staple of Abel Ferrara’s work, but Tommaso seems to be a more honest and open Ferrara. That beauty pours out in the performance from Dafoe, a constant professional, but also a beautiful vessel for playing someone with internal conflict. His struggle is a pressure on Nikki and pushing her away, so much that Tommaso catches her cheating on him with another man. It is her infidelity that begins to boil inside our main character and his constant battle between his good and evil sides.
I still consider myself to be a younger film critic and some directors I tend to discover their work daily. Abel Ferrara’s work is new to me and he made his name with the controversial Bad Lieutenant, which I recently saw for the first time. It starred Harvey Keitel as a New York detective that uses his power for personal pleasure of heroine and hookers. That is a film that strikes a nerve about the sin of man and human suffering in the eyes of god. In Tommaso, Ferrara plays on the fact that Dafoe once played Jesus himself in The Last Temptation of Christ, but here he shows a more relatable character fighting to be good every day. There’s a scene where Tommaso screams at a drunk man in the street because his ramblings are scaring his daughter. It’s a moment that you would think led to violence, but results in two men discovering they have more things in common. It’s a display of kindness that gave me chills at just how real it felt.
The other parts of Tommaso that I appreciate is how well it gets the struggle with addiction and the meetings this character attends. These are not dramatic sequences with arguments or fighting, but honest conversations, sharing from those in the room. Each share is there own monologue where you learn more about a person. That is what Tommaso is about. It is the bearing of a persons soul and a mixture with the dreams, or fantasies that a man can have. Some violent, some sexual, some delightful, and often complex. Watching the life of a man walking on the streets of Paris may not sound sexy to audiences, but with Willem Dafoe delivering another fantastic performance, Tommaso is a movie that we don’t see enough.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady