Deceiving the dying speaks to the best and worst of us. A white lie can assuage fears, reconcile guilt and fix what is broken. It can also prolong pain, damage bonds and reflect more upon the agent than the recipient. The dilemma of terminal diagnosis is laid bare in Valeria Golino’s expressive, if slightly implausible, drama. Euphoria is anchored by two excellent central performances: Riccardo Scamarcio as Matteo – a rich, charismatic entrepreneur – and Valerio Mastandrea as his brother Ettore – a stern, sensible teacher.
The unlikely pair come together because of concerning news. This leverages responsibility and decision-making to Matteo, a man of means, drive and unbending self-belief. These traits are fine for capitalist endeavours but prove problematic for sibling strife. The businessman whisks his brother to Rome, offering luxurious accommodation, an unspent credit card and the best medical care. It’s a supreme act of fraternal affection. But Matteo’s help thwarts Ettore’s agency, producing a profoundly inhuman consequence. Stripped of autonomy, the teacher’s state of illness becomes materially comfortable but emotionally bare.
Golino smartly mirrors the two men. As Etorre goes into hospital for pills and radiotherapy, Matteo has cosmetic surgery on his calves. The latter’s vanity and hedonism have untold effects on his own health. During Ettore’s treatment, explicitly placed plot points allow a taciturn relationship to open up. Matteo’s sexuality is portrayed as emancipatory and emboldening, while his sibling’s normality – his tired, stoic machismo – is repressive and inhibiting. When Ettore’s capacity for decision is finally withdrawn, what does he have left, especially when there is so little time left?
Euphoria doesn’t hide from its basic predictability but encourages the character studies to come forth. Partly estranged from his wife and young son, Ettore still plans comprehensive lessons for his school children. The drugs bring temporary highs and lingering lows. His speech sporadically deteriorates, his younger lover called in for a sympathy lap. He can’t be grateful if he doesn’t have control. We’re pushed to the point of acceptance for both men, and the contrived, moving ending is beautifully framed as if in a eulogy.
Euphoria (Euforia) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from Euphoria (Euforia) here: