Through several sinister vignettes, Bad Tales (originally titled Favolacce) covers the usual traumas of childhood: feeling inadequate about grades, awful canteen cooking, the terror of teenage pregnancy. In a particularly relatable scene, Viola (Giulia Melillo) weeps as her head is shaved because of nits.

The cinematography replicates the hypnotised, hazy perspective of the prepubescent mind, lingering on skin, eyes glued to the transgressions and incompetencies of their parents. In one particularly awful scene, a father panics as his son is choking, unaware of how to stop it. Without role models to help navigate this purgatory, the kids succumb to the suicidal, hypersexual tendencies learned from previous generations. With quite a pared back, deadpan script, the child actors do well but Vilma, (Ileana D’Ambra’s first role) the pregnant teen, shines in her brief appearances.

Geremia (Justin Korovkin) is a reprieve from the darkness, a mostly mute kid whose exuberant father (Gabriel Montesi) fills their comfortable silence. Though he isn’t exactly passing on good habits, he expresses love for his son unabashedly, yelling and swearing when he does. In contrast, the richer Placido parents only reveal their love in dire situations, with Elio Germano and Barbara Chicharelli’s performances crescendoing in the final act. The heightening abuse from the father shows an uncomfortable divide, not in class but in affection, which affects the children’s fates. In this lies the most salient message, but it is lost in the mess of overdone, illogical cynicism.

Bad Tales uses accomplished filmmaking to view this sultry yet sour Italian suburban life through the eyes of its pre-teen protagonists. But the impressive moments of humane sadness and terror are diluted by random grotesque moments, and though the D’Innocenzo brothers claim a “pure heart” to this “fairy-tale”, this bombardment of pessimism feels mostly meaningless.

RATING: 3/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Elio Germano, Tommaso Di Cola, Giulietta Rebaggiani, Gabriel Montesi, Justin Korovkin, Dalila Placido, Giulia Melilo, Ileana D’Ambra, Lino Musella, Barbara Chichiarelli

DIRECTORS: Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo 

WRITERS: Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo 

SYNOPSIS: A mystery narrator discovers a little girl’s unfinished diary and decides to fill in the gaps with self-proclaimed, uninspired pseudo-truths. What ensues is an almost anthology of sadness and sadism.