THE UNKNOWN WOMAN (Giuseppe Tornatore). 118 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (May 9). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
A thriller that nods to good old Hitch, traipses through some of the ground covered in Eastern Promises and then veers off into Sirkian melodrama, The Unknown Woman suffers from taking on too many genres and not having a clue where it should end up.
Xenia Rappoport plays the enigmatic Irena, a Ukrainian immigrant who becomes a maid in the Italian household of Valeria Adacher (Claudia Gerini) and her daughter Thea (Clara Dossena). Irena’s (literally) tortured past as a sex slave makes disruptive appearances in seizure-inducing flashbacks, in which violent editing and legendary composer Ennio Morricone’s thumping, screeching and moaning score accompany images of cruelty.
Rappoport’s sympathetic and restrained lead performance doesn’t buckle under the film’s excess, despite Malèna director Giuseppe Tornatore’s penchant for sado-masochism.
However, the flashbacks, which cut through a plot that spirals out of control, are enough to make viewers throw up their hands. It’s hard to care for The Unknown Woman when we see too much from the get-go.