His Secret Life

Turkish-born filmmaker Ferzan Ozpetek's solid and engrossing melodrama chronicles a Roman widow's journey of self-discovery. While still reeling from the accidental death of her beloved husband, Massimo (Andrea Renzi), Antonia (Margherita Buy) receives another terrible shock when Massimo's office is emptied and his belongings sent home. On the back of a...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Turkish-born filmmaker Ferzan Ozpetek's solid and engrossing melodrama chronicles a Roman widow's journey of self-discovery. While still reeling from the accidental death of her beloved husband, Massimo (Andrea Renzi), Antonia (Margherita Buy) receives another terrible shock when Massimo's office is emptied and his belongings sent home. On the back of a newly framed print, Antonia discovers an impassioned inscription, obviously written by someone with whom Massimo was having an affair. Antonia tracks down the print's delivery receipt and shows up a the sender's doorstep, but she's taken completely by surprise when she discovers that for the past seven years Massimo had been having an affair with another man, Michele (Stefano Accorsi). Suddenly faced with the realization that her husband of 15 years was in many ways a stranger, Antonia takes a leave of absence from her job as a health-care worker and returns to Michele's apartment on the pretext of tending to his AIDS-stricken roommate, Ernesto (Gabriel Garko). Michele, meanwhile, is having trouble dealing with his own grief, and is angry because he had to live his life with Massimo in the shadows. Michele initially resents Antonia's intrusion into his life, but as she gradually immerses herself in the world Massimo shared with Michele — a world defined by an apartment house full of colorful characters — an unusual intimacy soon develops. Antonia comes to realize that she used her marriage to shield herself from the world, and in learning who her husband was, she ultimately learns about herself. Ozpetek has come a long way since his 1996 debut; STEAM: THE TURKISH BATH — another tale of self-discovery — was interesting but uneven, and didn't quite match the potential of its subject — the hidden eroticism of the Turkish hamam. Here just the opposite is true. Working from a surprisingly sensitive script co-written by Gianni Romoli (CEMETERY MAN, THE SECT), Ozpetek avoids most of the pitfalls you'd expect in such a potentially sudsy set-up as he deftly explores the "truth" of identity and its consequences, particularly for those who live their lives outside the mainstream.

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