The Italian comedy Come non Detto, titled Tell No One for its American DVD release, doesn't break any new ground for gay cinema. The story - a young man in his 20s struggles to tell his family about his Spanish boyfriend - would have seemed old-hat back in the '90s. Director Ivan Silvistrini tells it with a stylized, rapid-fire pace that owes plenty to the work of Pedro Almodovar. Despite all that, the film comes through as a blissful celebration of family in all its quirkiness.
Tell No One's old-fashioned story benefits from the mainstream, feel-good treatment it's given here, populated with characters that are realistic and vibrantly appealing without getting too over-the-top. It starts with an impressive performance by actor Josafat Vagni as protagonist Matthia, a reserved 25 year-old who lives in Rome not too far from his close-knit family. Matthia is eager to strike out on his own with his Spanish boyfriend, Eduard (Jose Dammart), but his inability to live openly leads to a Rube Goldberg-esque web of lies. While his family thinks he's moving to Madrid solely for the employment opportunity, Eduard is led to believe that Matthia is as out-and-proud as he is. In fact, Matthia is closeted to most everyone he knows - a secret shared only with his spunky roommate Stefania (Valeria Bilello), and his sardonic drag-performing friend, Giacomo (Francesco Montanari). When Eduard excitedly calls Matthia with news that he's paying a surprise visit to meet the folks, Matthia teams up with Stefania and Giacomo to do anything to delay Eduard's arrival. Meanwhile, Matthia grapples with finding the proper time to tell his parents - gruff, homophobe soccer coach Rodolfo (Antonio Bruschetta) and his sensitive, neglected wife Aurora (Monica Guerritore) - about his true identity.
Although it's intriguing and funny, the plot driving Tell No One seems so quaint and vaguely outdated that one can easily picture it being made thirty-plus years ago (perhaps Italians prize familial bonds over being independent and staying true to oneself). The film ultimately winds up being enjoyable, however. Mostly that's due to the characters, which have all the quirks of a real family. I particularly loved Matthia's grandmother Iolanda (played by Lucia Guzzardi), an opinionated broad with an unhealthy obsession with hand sanitizer. There's also some good scenes between Matthia and his overbearing sister, Samantha (Valentina Correani), a high-strung stay-at-home mom upset at her mechanic husband that she's gotten pregnant a fourth time (will it be another boy?). Strangely, the relationship between Matthia and his boyfriend, Eduardo, takes a back seat to the drama surrounding his family and friends - Matthia's mother carries a slow-burning resentment over her ex-husband's affairs, while Stefania appears to hold a long-standing torch for the flamboyant Giacomo. The dialogue between these characters comes at a fast-paced and funny clip - most importantly, it's real even when the situation strains credibility (several times, you just want to say "Tell them already!").
TLA Releasing is obviously marketing Tell No One as a hot gay story, but the film ought to be enjoyed by a wider audience that appreciates good, mainstream dysfunctional family comedy.
Tell No One's 2.35:1-format photography looks agreeable on the letterboxed anamorphic widescreen image used for TLA Releasing's DVD edition, although the limitations of the format show with fuzzy edges and lack of detail in certain scenes. It almost looks as if the disc was mastered at different levels, depending on the scene. The pleasantly saturated color and rich light/dark values look fantastic, however.
The sole audio option is the film's Italian-language Stereo soundtrack, a good mix with pristine sounding dialogue and music cues that come across richly without overpowering the rest of the track. Optional English subtitles are also provided.
The only bonus is a selection of Trailers for this film and other TLA Releasing products, such as Monster Pies.
Sassy Italian import Tell No One is a sweet, funny, and heartwarming comedy. Revolving around an earnest young man's coming to terms with telling his family he's gay, the comedy's uplifting be-true-to-yourself theme helps to overcome the overly familiar (even dated) story. It's memorable thanks to Josafat Vagni's winning lead performance and a vivid cast of supporting characters. Belissimo! Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist and sometime writer who lives in sunny (and usually too hot) Phoenix, Arizona. Among his loves are oranges, going barefoot and blonde 1930s movie comedienne Joyce Compton. Since 2000, he has been scribbling away at Pop Culture weblog Scrubbles.net. One can also follow him on Twitter @4colorcowboy.