The Vice of Hope (2018) by Edoardo De Angelis
Review by Zach Dennis
I added this one last minute in order to have something to do prior to seeing The Predator at the first midnight madness of the festival, and sadly I don’t have much to say about it.
The Vice of Hope follows Maria (Pina Turco), an overseer of child trafficking in Castel Volturno, which is an area outside of Naples known for being one of the most lawless in Italy. She works for her “aunt” and is tasked with taking pregnant women, generally prostitutes, to a middle person that brings them to their final destination where they have the child. One of the women needed for the next delivery is missing and Maria is asked to find her in order to avoid dire consequences.
As all this comes to fruition, Maria also learns that she herself is pregnant and plans to have the baby against the advice of her doctor, who advises that it may end in the loss of her life.
Maybe I’m jaded, but this seems to be another case of a foreign film masked as prestige, important, etc. due to its subject matter and the level of weight the actors are carrying because of that. Not to say the story isn’t powerful — Turco gives an outstanding performance as Maria — but the film just doesn’t have enough power to generate a lot of investment in this somewhat cloudy narrative and pacing problems bring it to a standstill at times. The addition of other subplots muddle the final product a bit, but I did enjoy the relationship between Maria and a young girl who was rejected by the trafficking ring due to a walking defect and her neighbor, who is given an odd connection to Maria at the last moment.
To me, it never seemed like we were offered a true sense of fear about the lawlessness of the town. You see the ringleaders, the pimps and the petty criminals, but there is never a true sense of danger unless you’re Maria’s poor dog and you run into a passing snake. At times, it feels like this is dangerous in word only and not by any sort of true manufactured fear and that just made it more of a job working through the narrative rather than a worthwhile ride.
I will commend it on its use of musical cues, with a percussive rumble soundtracking Maria’s boat ride with the women to send them off for purchase offering this eerie, removed feeling.