Stunning cinematography and emotional character relationships take the spotlight in Mirko Pincelli's feature length directorial debut in a film which accurately and empathetically cultivates themes of abuse, expression and the potential of life, for both the inexperienced youth and the exhausted old
We love coming-of-age films here at The Edge, we love them. Look, one of our writers even wrote a whole list of the very best of them which you can check out here. But how often do films mix coming-of-age with the trials and tribulations of a much older, greyer adulthood, with all things disease, destruction and downright bleak basis enveloping its antithesis between imprisoned youth and a dying adulthood, all held together with the lovely Noel Clarke killing it in his supporting role? Not very often, it would seem, and not often enough, goddammit. We got the bleak in Perks of Being a Wallflower, we got the destruction in The Virgin Suicides, we got the disease (kinda sorta) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But all together? No way. Cue The Habit of Beauty which does exactly that, in Mirko Pincelli‘s directorial feature film debut, to near perfection, finally and thankfully.
Habit follows a handful of characters in various stages of life, one at the start, one at the brink, and one, arguably, at the end, all jarringly shoved into each other’s life for the sake of talent, art, and an unlimited expression. Nico Mirallegro plays the underprivileged Ian, a teenager just released from prison back into his destructive family rich with abuse, addiction and the ability to drive him right back where he came from. He is approached by Ernesto (Vincenzo Amato), a former photography mastermind with the grey hairs to match who sees something idling on potential in Ian and urges him to pursue his talent with the help of Ernesto’s gallery owning ex-wife, Elena (Francesca Neri), who is yet to deal with the death of their child three years ago. Power-plays, violence and general cataclysmic chaos ensues – somewhat inevitably.
Excellently shot, with a clear eye for empathy and the uncomfortable search for the insidious blame and guilt that comes from being an insider of abuse, The Habit of Beauty truly shines through the character of Ian. His stuttering speech impediment is a clever touch to interweave palpitating anxiety and insipid inabilities through the film’s optimistic yet admiringly realistic veins. Mirallegro delivers an award-worthy performance, who all too accurately pulls off Ian‘s frustration and dejection at being severely underestimated by both his family, and himself.
But Habit’s true strength lies in its comparison between the young and the old, which remains empathetic to both and everything in between, whilst still appearing gleamingly accurate. Exaggeration is not something Habit dips its toes into, its source material already rich with interest and intrigue. But whilst its characters and their relationships stand out as the film’s very representation of its hotpot of intellect and wisdom (all whilst straying far from the realm of acting condescending, fortunately for it, it’s worth mentioning), it loses substance through what becomes obvious as an error of editing. Jumping from being practically strangers, their conflicting backgrounds acting as the barrier of distrust that separates them, to emotional embraces and announcements of best-friendship, it’s a shameful lost fifteen minutes of Ian and Ernesto’s relationship arc – at least – that sits at the heart of the blame. This is honestly a shame, because it would have been lovely to see that gradual evolution instead of the many not-so-subtle allusions to Ian’s father’s battle with alcoholism which ends on too high a note to fit with the realistic tone the rest of the film had so carefully cemented together.
Still, The Habit of Beauty is, indeed, a thing of beauty, and one to watch out for in the coming months. One of the most big-budget-looking films of this year’s Raindance, complete with stunning crane and pan shots of true-blue lakes and steep, rocky precipices and, of course, Noel Clarke’s attachment to it, Habit is a film with a whole lot of heart, a whole lot of unique perspectives, and a whole lot more hope. Keep your eyes peeled for this one, kiddos, you’ll be anything but disappointed.
The Habit of Beauty, directed by Mirko Pincelli, is being shown as part of the 2016 Raindance Film Festival. Further information about the festival including screening times and ticket information can be found here