Spanish star Penélope Cruz plays an Italian woman engaged in a Bosnian love affair with an American photographer (Emile Hirsch) in Twice Born. Cruz is visiting Saravejo with her temperamental teen Pietro (Pietro Castellitto) for the first time since they fled the besieged city in 1992, when he was an infant. Their trip is interspersed with flashbacks of her as a student, meeting Hirsch, the father Pietro never knew, just before the 1984 Olympics in Saravejo.
The blend of Cruz's lustrous soulfulness and Hirsch's infectious vivacity makes for a surprisingly sweet romance initially. But in the hands of director Sergio Castellitto, adapting the novel of his wife, Margaret Mazzantini, the movie turns into a somber slog that takes far too long to reach its overwrought surprise ending.
There are some grace notes here, notably a pair of slow dances, one set to Springsteen's "I Wanna Marry You," the other to Nirvana's "Something in the Way." And there are captivating performances by supporting actors Adnan Haskovic and Saadet Aksoy.
But the partially subtitled film, which will be available on most TV on-demand services the same day it gets a limited release in Cherry Hill, is too choppy and contrived to really register emotionally.
Directed by Sergio Castellitto, with Penélope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Adnan Haskovic, and Saadet Aksoy. Partially subtitled. Distributed by Entertainment One Films.
Running time: 2 hrs. 10 mins
Parent's guide: R (nudity, violence, adult themes, profanity)
Playing at: AMC Cherry HillEndText