The real shame here is that there is a kernel of a great story that was ruined by self-indulgent writing, bad acting, miscasting, and nightmarish editing.
First, if the writers and film editors had even a little bit of self-discipline, they'd have trimmed about an hour of flab from this movie. An hour and a half would have been plenty of time to say what they had to say and it would have been so much more effective if they hadn't bored the audience to tears. Two hours would have been slow moving but acceptable. Two and a half hours was downright excessive. Every scene was stretched out until it screamed for mercy! They seemed to be attempting to build tension, but instead, they just made it tedious. It is REALLY bad when you find yourself fast-forwarding through the sex-scene - NOT BECAUSE YOU ARE EMBARASSED - but because you are dead bored!!! What made all this slow-moving, lethargic storytelling even worse was that the ending was actually rushed! Just at the moment when you need the story to slow down and deliver some resolution, you get whooshed into the exit at the speed of light and you are left wondering what happened!
The casting was really wrong. The lead (Aldo) is played by a man who is at least 7 years older than the character he plays. This story is about a boy (an older teenager) who loses his mother at a very vulnerable time in his life. This character really, REALLY needed a teenager to play the part because it needed to catch that fleeting moment when the child turns into a man. Unfortunately, they didn't get an older boy for this role but cast a young man, and in doing so, they lost that childlike vulnerability that would have made Aldo sympathetic instead of menacing - and made that "coming of age" angle believable. I'm sorry, but most 25-year-old men simply cannot capture that fragile moment in the life of a child turning into an adult.
The female lead was also too old to play the part of Madalane, she was way, way too womanly/worldly and there was never the sense of a tender "first love" between them. At 24 years old, she was playing a 17-year-old girl. This was one of the most disturbing performances I've seen in a long time. She played this girl as a creepy, sultry, stalker! Always ogling Aldo, always creeping around in the background, always peering from behind a door. Sort of like a cougar stalking prey. I kept thinking this was a 45-year-old woman going after a younger man! She didn't appear to have any parents - no one to answer to and no one to look after her. Not that this vixen needed anyone to look after her - she clearly could take care of herself. But where was her mother??? Even on their high-school graduation, there was no sign of Madalyne's family. It was almost as is she hatched from a reptile egg, fully grown, and ready to commence a career of seduction. I had the vague impression that I was supposed to like her, but in reality, I wanted Aldo to RUN AWAY!!! I couldn't believe he actually responded to her - the ONLY people who are attracted to this kind of obsessive stalking are fictional characters and people who are mentally ill. I believe Aldo might have been both! LOL!
The acting was what I'd call hammy overemoting. The guy who played Aldo had no sense of subtlety but played the part as if he thought the audience had to hear him scream on a regular basis in order to understand that this boy was suffering. There were forced and trumped-up "situations" that gave all of the actors plenty of chances to scream, cry, and otherwise demonstrate that they could "act". I didn't feel any of the emotions that should have been stirred up by this tragic tale because the actors were so busy cramming the drama down my throat that I felt like gagging.
There were plenty of the standard "artsy-fartsy" shots of people pacing, tearing their hair, long and slanted shadows, close-ups of cracks in the furniture. Long, tense scenes of no dialog and contorted facial expressions. One other reviewer mentioned that Aldo looked at a pill bottle for TEN MINUTES! That pretty much says it all! I laughed and laughed when I read that review!
And the obsession with Aldo being NAKED! Scene after scene of Aldo naked. Not sexual naked, but overdramatized, "artsy-fartsy" naked. Naked in the bathroom while he cried. Naked in the bedroom while he sulked. Naked in the shower while he fainted. A single, epic scene of Aldo grieving while naked would have been powerful. Too many scenes of this type simply watered down the message of his torment until I found myself chuckling instead of weeping.
The ONLY reason this movie gets two stars from me instead of the dreaded one star is that the presence of a genuinely good story buried within can be felt during the whole show. It really could have been great, but it was simply mishandled from beginning to end. It was a waste. Too, too bad.