Facing Windows plays like a psychological mystery and ends like a Hallmark card. It withholds information (some of which you can guess), has one nice twist, and becomes less interesting and a little schmaltzy when its secrets are revealed. Set in Italy, it begins with a prologue that takes place in 1943. Two bakers in a bakery warily eye each other as they ply their trade. Suddenly one lunges at the other, a fight ensues, one stabs the other, fatally. What was that all about? It will be a long time before we find out.
Fast forward to the present. A thirtysomething couple encounters an old man wandering in the street who is apparently suffering from amnesia (Massimo Girotti). The woman, Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) wants nothing to do with him, but her husband, Filippo (Filippo Nigro) insists they can’t leave the poor soul ambling about defenseless in a big city like Rome. So, they take him home, with the idea of dropping him off at a police station the first chance they get — which, of course, is delayed so long that the man becomes part of their lives. Giovanna and Filippo are at an unhappy point in their marriage. He’s frustrated that he can’t get a promotion at work, while she has a lousy job at a chicken factory. Plus, the romantic spark has fizzled, and Giovanna has been taking longing looks at the handsome stranger in the apartment across the courtyard (hence the title, though no doubt it’s meant to have broader metaphysical implications as well). Meanwhile the old amnesiac, who calls himself Simone, befriends the couple’s two small children. He encourages Giovanna to pursue her dream of being a pastry chef, something he knows about because, as it turns out, he is a famous pastry chef himself … and if this is all starting to sound sort of ridiculous, well, it is.
But it doesn’t seem so while you’re watching it, at least not for the first three-quarters. It’s paced, acted and directed well enough to hold your interest until the mystery of Simone is unraveled. But in the end, the themes that convey his story’s dark past — the persecution of homosexuals, the Holocaust, murder and guilt — seem awfully heavy and make Giovanna’s tribulations and final, cloying epiphany seem relatively trivial.
In Italian with English subtitles. Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Friday and Saturday, Aug. 13-14, at 7 and 9:30 p.m.; and on Sunday, Aug. 15, at 4 and 7 p.m. Call 313-833-3237.
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].