Claudio Cupellini’s A Quiet Life works best if you think of it as a divergent alternative scenario for Toni Servillo’s character in The Consequences of Love. Servillo plays Rosario, a gangster that flees to Germany so that he can leave his past life behind him and start over again. The idea of self-imposed exile is central to all of Paolo Sorrentino’s films, but a unique parallel between The Consequences of Love and A Quiet Life exists, since Servillo’s character in the former chooses exile under the watchful eyes of his captors instead of exile abroad like Rosario does.
In A Quiet Life, Rosario’s already remarried, has a new child, and started a new business. Now he fears that if his past resurfaces, his old personality will too. When two young Italians visit him at his gourmet restaurant-cum-hotel, Rosario understandably panics, knowing that he’s going to have to either stand his ground and die or flee again. Cupellini’s antihero is in that way more identifiably human than Sorrentino’s calculating loner. But that doesn’t make Rosario’s story more compelling.
Both A Quiet Life and The Consequences of Love are about predestined premature deaths. Rosario knows that his current life is at an end, but he doesn’t know why. His fury at Diego (Marco D’Amore) and Edoardo’s (Francesco Di Leva) sudden intrusion into his life cannot be contained in spite of his better efforts and soon, Renate (Juliane Köhler), Rosario’s wife, begins to suspect something’s up. Unfortunately, since Copellini’s story is too contrived for its own good, Renat’s first thought is that Rosario has cheated on her again, a thought that he waves away as if it were trivial. His mind is so fixated on figuring out if he can cheat death that he barely even registers her concerns. In his moments of weakness, Rosario flies to protect his son Mathias (Leonardo Sprengler) before his wife, one of a handful of ways that Cupellini reflects Rosrio’s fixation with preserving the future of his new life (the most tacky representation of this is the way that Rosario is shown to put mercury-studded nails into trees in his hotel’s backyard so that they will die and he can put up a biergarten where they’re still standing).
But apart from a couple of other superfluous and underdeveloped metaphors for Rosario’s urge to kill his past in order to make his new life thrive, A Quiet Life is a mostly riveting character study. Servillo’s performance is ferocious even during a pivotal scene where he makes a series of contorted grimaces to show how deeply conflicted he is about Diego and Edoardo eating at the same table as his family. He doesn’t need to work as hard as Cupellini makes him to look frantic. But that same go-for-broke intensity off pushes his performance over the edge from good to great, making A Quiet Life an immersive look at a marked man’s nervous breakdown.