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La Bestia nel cuore (Don't Tell)

(2006) ** R
120 min. Lions Gate. Director: Cristina Comencini. Cast: Lucy Akhurst, Roberto Infascelli, Simona Nasi, Angela Finocchiaro, Stefania Rocca.

Cristina Comencini's Academy Award-nominated Don't Tell (or, as it's known in Italy, The Beast in the Heart) is a straightforward, well-mannered drama about the resurfacing of repressed memories of sexual abuse. Perhaps it's among the first such tales in Italy, but here in the States, audiences have been saturated with them, including an American indie released last year called...Don't Tell.

Giovanna Mezzogiorno plays Sabina, a child of abuse whose breakthrough following her father's death sends her to America to visit her brother (Luigi Lo Cascio). Despite adapting the script from her own novel, Comencini has a shortage of useful plot. So she pads the two-hour movie with fluffy rom-com subplots as the people in Sabina's Roman life react to her strange behavior: her boyfriend (Alessio Boni) reveals his weakness and two of her female friends find unexpected love.

Comincini makes fairly obvious stabs at imagery, with Sabina jogging past fractured statues or working at looping a rape scene ("Let's take it from 'Shut up, bitch'"), but it's the dialogue and narration that truly turn to twaddle and platitudinous psychobabble ("Families are all about 'seeming.' What's true or not you never know"). Yet worse, the course of each plot thread is deadly obvious.

Don't Tell may make good therapy for victims of abuse. It may be a curiosity for fans of The Best of Youth, since it reunites Lo Cascio and Boni. But just because American films frequently exploit repressed memories as a plot device in nasty genre pictures doesn't make the genteel Don't Tell a sophisticated or particularly insightful film.

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