Second Spring (Seconda primavera)

Italy (2016) Dir. Francesco Calogero

For many people, having children is a priority in a marriage, largely through the tradition of keeping a family lineage going into the foreseeable future, but it has also known to cause some problems. Whether a successful career might be compromised or the baby was unplanned, the issue of having children can be problematic for a relationship.   

Having turned 50, architect Andrea Ricoli (Claudio Botosso) is looking for new tenants for his seaside villa. Through his anaesthesiologist friend Rossana (Anita Kravos), Andrea meets her younger husband Riccardo (Angelo Campolo), an aspiring writer working at a shoe shop, with whom he attends a New Year’s Eve party after a falling out between Ricardo and Rossana.

Also at the party is Hikma (Desirèe Noferini), the 19 year-old Tunisian who, in rebelling against older brother Nabil (Hedy Krissane), decides to get off with anyone who shows interest. Come the spring as Riccardo loses his job when the shoe shop closes, he learns that Hikma is pregnant with is child, Rossana has filed for divorce and Hikma is disowned by Nabil. Taking pity on them, Andrea lets them stay with him at his villa.

Second Spring is one of those curious films that clearly exists yet information about it online or anywhere else is scant. Yes, it has an IMDb page, and I watched it via Amazon Prime, but try finding anything else about it in English is akin to finding just one sensible reason why Boris Johnson would make a good Prime Minister.

What I have discovered is writer-director Francesco Calogero has been making films for over 30 years but isn’t exactly prolific, the number of titles in his CV yet to break double figures. Then again, the old adage does assert “Quality not quantity” so maybe Calogero is a more successful tortoise in a world of hit and miss filmmaking hares, though there has been no follow up to this outing at time of writing, to little surprise I guess.

Per the title, the events of this film take place over roughly an 18-month period with spring being the pivotal season, though the story actually begins four years earlier when Andrea’s pregnant wife Sofia mysteriously disappeared at the villa. It’s not a mystery for Andrea as revealed late in the second act, but his refusal to accept Sofia is dead has made this hard for him to move on, hence his need for tenants for the villa.  

He first meets Hikma when Nabil hires Andrea for a project, immediately recognising a slight similarity with his late wife in her. Nothing comes of it for a long time, even during their time together at the villa, but it is evident that something will have to give first, which is where Riccardo comes into it. An aspiring writer and pretentious with it, he is an archetype in that his sharp looks match his abrasive personality.

Coming across more French than Italian, Riccardo believes his success and greatness is a fingertip away but the world doesn’t agree just yet. His marriage to Rossana has all the hallmarks of a successful woman in her 40’s with a trophy husband, whose delusion of grandeur are entirely on his own terms. Refusing to attend a formal New Year’s event with Rossana’s hospital colleagues, Riccardo throws a fit and she goes alone.

In all honesty, there is nothing particularly likeable about Riccardo at all, assuming the spoiled brat role throughout the film, yet to his credit, he does stick by Hikma when she announces her pregnancy, arguably because they were both in the same sticky situation with regard to accommodation, so Andrea’s grand gesture was a mutual life saver, though more metaphoric for him in saving himself from his self-imposed mourning.

As the year moves on and the seasons change, the cycle of life follows it usual pattern and a baby daughter is born, providing a funny moment when a doctor is called in to aid with the birth and it’s Rossana, fainting at the sight of seeing Riccardo with Hikma! While this film has been labelled a comedy drama, it is the post marriage interactions between these two that fulfils this remit, sadly few and far between.

The direction of the story is mostly predictable given the scenario and the personalities of the main players but the hook is less “when” but “if”, Calogero expertly teasing us of an illicit moment to erupt between Andrea and Hikma only to pull back at the last second saying “not yet”. The frisson, if you can call it that, is explored through mostly innocent set-ups, such as Hikma wearing an old dress of Sofia’s at Andrea’s birthday party, both upsetting yet delighting him.

Riccardo’s obnoxiousness and later, a work related assignment in Africa effectively drives Hikma and Andrea together but with twenty minutes left in the film it is way too late for any drama to be bred from this, so, without spoiling anything, Calogero doesn’t bother. Instead, he goes for a very hasty wrap up, resolving earlier issues long forgotten in one scene, ignoring other loose threads in favour of an incongruent opera performance.

Such a damp squib ending is likely to make some forget the journey getting there is very enjoyable through the sumptuous photography bringing out the best of the serene and pastoral Italian rural setting. This applies to the contrivance of the photogenic cast, especially the stunning Desirèe Noferini but they can all act too, which is a boon. Claudio Botosso has an avuncular aura about him making him likeable, unlike Angelo Campolo who is too good as the slimy Riccardo.

Whether you can live with the rushed, weak ending will likely dictate your overall opinion on Second Spring. The seasonal breakdown to influence the mood of the narrative is a nice touch, otherwise this competent and mostly enjoyable, if overly languid drama fails to capitalise on key aspects to prevent it from fading from your memory once it is over.