A Film Of Two Distinct, Tonally Jarring Halves
The Last Paradiso depicts a forbidden love story that crescendos at the midway point, flatlining into stagnated mediocrity for the latter periods of the picture. With muddied ideas of revenge, romance, honour and family, The Last Paradiso fails to expand on its central themes, making for an unfortunately forgettable watch.
Set deep in the heart of Southern Italy, 1958, this Netflix movie depicts the trials and tribulations of a toxic romance that’s unlikely to garner much empathy from audiences. Given this is central to the crux of drama, this will almost certainly make or break your experience with this one.
On the one hand you have Ciccio Paradiso, a brash, 40 year old farmer who takes what he wants when he wants it. Despite being a married man, he takes a fancy to Bianca, the daughter to proud man and the town’s opportunistic exploiter Cumpà Schettino. Refusing to heed the warnings of his family, Ciccio engages in a whirlwind affair with the girl, to devastating consequences.
Dreaming of bigger and better things, Ciccio tries to convince Bianca to run away, the first half centers around whether Bianca will leave and whether these two can keep their affair a secret.
All of this ensuing tension, angst and sneaking around eventually comes to a head during the midway point, as a shocking twist sends ripples throughout the plot, throwing out the script and completely changing the game.
While this does well to revitalize the film before it stagnates into an obvious resolution at the end, it also does so at the expense of a coherent story.
The result then is a tonally disjointed picture that completely changes its ideas, tone, protagonist and themes to try and fit with a vengeance narrative that never finds its groove – or voice. It’s obvious what Director Rocco Ricciardulli was trying to do here, showing how familial ties run deep and violence begets violence, but it’s done so in a way that feels awkward and crowbarred into a completely different film.
The title, “The Last Paradiso” does give some clues over where the story is going, playing out as a clever double entendre that becomes a lot clearer toward the end of the picture. For the sake of spoilers I won’t divulge that here but it’s a nice little nod nonetheless.
The actual movie looks great though and aesthetically, The Last Paradiso uses a deliberate blend of muted and greyed colours to feed back into the economic and societal misery these characters find themselves in. The costume and set design are both well done too, with lots of little details and dialogue cues helping to set this squarely in the midst of the late 50’s.
Given the film is inspired by real events, The Last Paradiso certainly has an interesting story going for it but the film flatlines into mediocrity following a strange tonal shift that doesn’t work anywhere near as well as it should. With an abundance of long shots, a romance that never heats up and a tonally jarring narrative, The Last Paradiso is a difficult one to recommend.