Bad Tales review – horribly compelling urban fairytale

There’s a diseased yellow cast to the photography here, a sawing anxiety in the score, which means that even a moment of joyous summer release – a water fight among children – is undermined by a lurking sense of unease. Bad Tales, the second feature film from Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, is a slippery thing, an urban fairytale unfolding under cautionary storm clouds in a sweltering suburb of Rome. Three families, not friends exactly but neighbours in a state of churlish co-existence, are the focus of a story narrated by an unknown male. He claims that the tale comes from a girl’s diary, but seeds the possibility of untruths.

There’s a trickle-down of toxicity in this disappointed backwater, which has as its source the men of the families. The children pick up on the resentment, the swaggering sexuality that bears a taint of aggrieved anger. What chance do these kids have? A pregnant teenager wears her parental unfitness with a mocking smirk; middle-school students Dennis and Alessia cling together as their father vents his unpredictable anger. And spindly Geremia struggles to talk to beautiful Viola, whose father discusses her academic mediocrity as if she weren’t present. Parental indifference is not attuned to the looming tragedy in this horribly compelling fable.


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