Movie Review: Twice Born


MPAA: USA - Rated R
Canada - Rated 18A.

See IMDP Parental Guide for more info.

twice-born Twice Born is a romantic drama that switches between present-day and approximately twenty years in the past using flashbacks to tell the story. Using this technique, it tells the tale of Gemma (Penélope Cruz) who fell in love with an American photographer named Diego (Emile Hirsch) in 1984 in Sarajevo, Bosnia. As Gemma revisits Sarajevo with her teenage son an overwhelming amount of emotion and past memories overcome her. As the trip progresses, she slowly pieces together how her past experiences shaped her current beliefs and reality. Switching between the past and present allows this film to quickly reveal information about the characters and develop the story at a captivating pace.

The story starts out as Gemma discovers that an exhibition of Diego's photographs will be going on display shortly in Sarajevo. This intrigues her and she plans a trip to the city with her teenage son to visit the exhibit and to show him the beauty and culture of the city. Her relationship with her son is struggling, and she hopes that the trip will bring them closer together. As they arrive in the city and get off the airplane, the story uses flashbacks to give further details of Gemma and Diego's past.

Gemma and Diego are two young professionals who have an idealistic and naive view of the world. The two are deeply in love and as their relationship progresses, Gemma expresses her desire to become a mother to Diego. Unfortunately, they struggle to have a child together, and shortly after this discouraging discovery they are both thrust into the middle of a dangerous conflict as civil war breaks out across Bosnia. The film explores how this tragic event affected their relationship, the people around them, and even the growth of Gemma's son. Castellitto is careful to ensure that the civil war doesn't overshadow the story that he is trying to tell. He maintains a good balance between the events of the war and the development of the characters.

While the story, based on Margaret Mazzantini's best-selling novel of the same name, uses a concept that many authors and directors have used before, the performance by the actors is what brings this film to life. Penélope Cruz and Emile Hirsch deliver stunning performances that make the film exciting to watch. In a film like this where the focus is on the characters, it's absolutely crucial that the performers are able to carry the story and keep it fascinating and alluring. This is the second time that Castellitto and Cruz have worked together on a film and Cruz delivers a strong performance like usual.

Sergio Castellitto, who is married to Mazzantini, also helps make this movie great. His masterful ability to use flashbacks never disrupts the flow of the film. Instead, it works to flawlessly blend together the story of Gemma and Diego, the war in Bosnia, and the coming-of-age of Gemma's son while maintaining a balance and never letting a particular arc overshadow the theme. Castellitto started as an actor in 1983 and won numerous awards for his performances.Twice Born is the Italian director's third film that he has worked on. His last film, "Don't Move," was also based on a novel written by his wife Mazzantini and also starred Penélope Cruz.

Primarily filmed in Italy, the visual effects are quite nice and add to the captivating effect that this movie has. Gianfilippo Corticelli was in charge of cinematography and his great work is evident throughout the film. While this film deals with the tragedy of war, heartbreak, and loss, some of the scenes will bring a smile to your face due to the stunning beauty. Corticelli does a wonderful job bringing the story to life and helps contribute to its powerful, heartfelt effect.

The music selection, courtesy of Eduardo Cruz, is slightly unorthodox, but is actually a strength of the film. It works extremely well with the scenes and never feels out of place. Some of the musical choices include Bruce Springsteen and Nirvana.

Clocking in at just over two hours, Twice Born doesn't rush the story that it's telling. Castellitto works very hard to create a visual representation of the best-selling novel by Mazzantini. He adds his personal touch to make the movie unique, and the visual effects and sound help bring the story to life in a different way than the novel. The high-quality actors he recruited and the chemistry between them makesTwice Born an emotional film that will capture your attention from beginning to end.


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