While watching this first feature by Giuseppe Capotondi, you might think of “Diabolique” and “Vertigo,” but despite many virtues it’s ultimately much less effective than either of them. It’s a twisty thriller that keeps you engaged for the duration, but in the final analysis proves not nearly as smart or clever as it thinks it is.
The script—which draws its title from the idea that you can make a wish when the hour and minute on a digital timepiece are identical (say 12:12)—focuses on Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport), a Balkan refugee working as a chambermaid in a Turin hotel. In the first act, the brooding, unhappy woman meets handsome Guido (Filippo Timi), an ex-cop, at a speed-dating session shortly after witnessing the suicide of a guest who jumps from the window of her room. The two hit it off despite the fact that each is clearly suffering from bad memories, and eventually Guido takes her to the office from which he provides electronic security for an estate that houses an abundance of expensive antiques and artwork. Unfortunately, on the very day he turns off the elaborate system so they can frolic on the grounds, the place is hit by a gang of masked thieves, and when he tries to protect Sonia from their leader, he’s shot.
That moves the story into its second act, with Sonia returning to work traumatized by her lover’s death and perhaps troubled by the aftereffects of a head wound. She’s haunted by memories—or perhaps visions—of Guido. She’s also stalked by a creepy guest, hassled by a policeman who was a buddy of Guido’s and clearly suspects that she was complicit in the heist, upset by the abrupt suicide of her best friend, and unsettled by the repeated appearances of a priest and by a photo of her and Guido that she claims was never taken. Is she ill, or going mad? And is she a criminal, or a distraught victim?
The third act answers those questions with a twist that you’ll either consider unfair or inspired. It wouldn’t be fair to reveal much about it, save to say that in the end the revelations, when they come, are hardly as surprising as the makers apparently feel they’ll be.
“The Double Hour” is exceedingly well-made. Capotondi, who cut his teeth on music videos, clearly knows how to manipulate viewers for maximum effect, and he has able collaborators in cinematographer Tat Radcliffe and editor Guido Notari. He also has two remarkable leads. Rappoport brilliantly captures Sonia’s aching desire for happiness and her vulnerability, while Timi positively exudes masculinity and emotional pain. The remainder of the cast provide excellent support.
But ultimately there’s a sense that the picture is a contraption as artificial as the digital devices the title references. When the final credits come up you may feel that you’ve invested more into the narrative than it deserved and feel a bit cheated. Capotondi certainly shows himself an expert craftsman, but in the end his film seems to strive for a degree of emotional resonance it doesn’t earn.