When a typical school night delivering pizzas for minimum wage turns into a fateful hit-and-run, the lives of childhood friends Mirko and Manolo take an unexpected turn. Set in the dreary, poverty-stricken outskirts of Rome, Boys Cry follows the teenagers as their decision to flee the crime scene leads to their entanglement with a local gang. More than just a typical drama about boys finding fleeting pleasure in criminal activity, Boys Cry is an insightful, intimate, and often tragic depiction of an unshakeable bond between two young men. It is perhaps no surprise that co-directors and twin brothers, Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, managed to capture this bond so eloquently.
Mirko and Manolo’s affection for one another is immediately apparent in the first scene, as they shovel down fast food and bemoan their poor wages and uncertain future prospects in the hospitality industry. Teasing and provocative, the ease and familiarity between the two is heart-warming. Mirko is the more amiable of the two. He is the overthinker; sensitive, inquisitive, and capable of displaying a loving tenderness towards his single mother and adoring girlfriend. Manolo is comparatively fearless and composed. He is quick to dismiss Mirko’s doubts, his reactive nature making him the natural leader of the two. It is Manolo who decides to flee after the pedestrian is hit by their car, and it is he who becomes first involved in the gang, later persuading his friend to join.
Despite their criminal connections, the youths remain likeable for much of the film. The boys seem to be a victim of circumstance rather than inherently bad, and for that their crimes seem to be more easily forgiven. Surrounded by poverty, guided by dubious fatherly advice and sustained by the hope of a brighter future, the boys make poor decisions, as many young people do. Young and unthinking, eager to impress and entirely disposable, the boys are perfect for the gang’s purposes. They quickly earn themselves a reputation for being unperturbed by their criminal activities. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Mirko and Manolo are not, however, natural-born killers. Their fear and anxiety after hitting the pedestrian, their constant preoccupation with past crimes, and their wide-eyed, stricken expressions as they gradually descend into the criminal underworld, paint a very different picture.
So how do these two young men come to commit such atrocious acts? Rather than excessive gore and lengthy scenes of violence, which may be expected given the film’s genre, the gang violence is presented as detached, emotionless and strategic. The boy’s first intentional murder is a short, silent scene. They walk into a shop, a gun is shot, they leave. Another murder is viewed from way above the house in which it unfolds. A single shot pierces the silence. This skillful cinematography conveys a sense of the boys’ detachment when they engage in criminal behaviour. There is a brief moment when Mirko confesses he hasn’t been feeling well, to which Manolo tells him to stop thinking completely. Mirko appears to take this advice literally and embraces the work with less hesitancy. His facial features become more defined, morphing into a more handsome, emotionless mask as his actions become more repugnant and unforgiveable.
Boys Cry will defy your expectations, toy with your emotions and make you reconsider a life of crime.
The Italian Film Festival comes to all Australian capital cities from 11 September onwards. For more information and tickets, head to the Lavazza Italian Film Festival website.