The Way We Laughed doesn't have many laughs. However as a heartfelt Italian drama about two brothers it is quite good albeit slowly paced.
The film directed by Gianni Amelio is about two brothers who have moved to Turin from Sicily to make a living. The younger brother Pietro (Francesco Guiffrida) is a student in school while the older brother Giovanni (Enrico Lo Verso) is a happy-go-lucky working class man who just wants to make ends meet. Giovanni is extremely proud of his brother and he sacrifices his time and efforts to keep Pietro in school. The problem is Pietro returns the favor by playing hooky from school and taking the money he's supposed to use for books and spending it on other things.
The film covers six years in the lives of the brothers from 1958 to 1964 and is laid out in five chapters that deal with their struggles, triumphs and sacrifices. In the course of the 128 minute running time the plot takes a few good turns and has a good strong last hour.
Director Amelio uses the 2.35:1 CinemaScope framing very well and the cinematography by Luca Bigazzi is beautiful. Amelio is also in no hurry to tell the story. It moves along at a steady pace and – with an interesting stylistic choice – he has the actors move a little slower than usual. There are times when the film seems to be in slow motion or the actors seem to be acting dimwitted but it is a conscious directing choice that ends up giving the film a little bit more weight as well as a haunting feel.
The film was winner of the Golden Lion in Venice back in 1998. I don't find the film as good as other Amelio films such as Stolen Children or Lamerica but it definitely fits in to his general theme about the struggles of the lower classes in Italy.
The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1* (CinemaScope) and looks great. A good number of scenes are shot in dark locations or at night. There is a lot of color saturation and the shadows are often silky black. The image has occasional white specks throughout but it is not bad and the image is sometime soft, which is most likely due to whatever film stock was used as opposed to something caused by the authoring process. The disc notes that it is 16/9 compatible. *[Amazon incorrectly has the film at 1.78:1 and others have it at 1.85:1. Trust me, it's 2:35:1].
The audio is in Italian Dolby Digital surround. The music pieces are organic in most cases so the sound doesn't come across full bodied but there is no problem hearing the dialogue.
The only extras are a brief poster gallery and a photo gallery, which don't add much to the film.
The Way We Laughed is a good Italian drama about two brothers and the struggles they go through for each other over a six year period. Slow moving but with a sense of purpose and a strong last hour. The film looks and sounds very good.