Il colibrì (The Hummingbird) is a comprehensive, often exhausting, look at one man’s life through connection and heartbreak, tragedy and resilience.
The story of Marco Carrera (Pierfrancesco Favino) is told non-linearly, jumping through time rather seamlessly with tonal continuity, skipping across moments from different eras, within the same physical space; leaving it difficult to get one’s bearings for when, and with whom, a scene is set. At a baseline: Marco Carrera, at his family’s beachside home, becomes infatuated with the girl next door, Luisa, but when tragedy strikes, the Carrera family leaves and the two would-be young lovers diverge to different paths.
As a young man, who plays late-night poker games with friends, Marco and his buddy Duccio are en route to a casino, but Duccio freaks out and they’re forced to de-board – an act of fate, as the plane ends up crashing. Years later, Marco encounters the flight attendant Marina, who says she was also meant to be on that plane, and he courts her, they marry, and have a daughter Adele.
All the while, Marco never gets over Luisa, and the two stay in touch and carry on an emotional (not physical) affair, as Marina descends into poor mental health and Adele struggles with an often-absentee father. As time wears on, Marco and Marina separate, and Adele, now a young woman, has a daughter of her own – before perishing herself in a rock-climbing accident, leaving Marco to care for his granddaughter Mirajin.
The climactic scene is held at, all of places, a high-stakes poker match-up in a palazzo. Marco, now a middle-aged grandfather, crosses paths again with Duccio, who’s been paid to be there to jinx Marco, who nonetheless ends up winning big. As the massive sum is about to be signed over to him, he rejects it – declaring, to a room of mostly strangers, that winning money wouldn’t bring him happiness, as he doesn’t want to travel, hire help, or quit his job; he’ll keep his life as it is.
It’s a sentimental note to wrap us on, but it feels unearned. Il colibrì is so overstuffed with characters and time-jumping, that nothing feels steady enough to get a handle on, or to really develop. The film is so loaded with big, shattering moments, that it almost grows monotonous; there’s so much happening that there’s no room to breathe. There’s no indication that Marco and Marina are ever in love, before things go sour; and even Luisa, supposedly the love of Marco’s life, is certainly around but it’s not a connection that bears authenticity.
Marco’s nickname is “hummingbird,” which brings a few metaphors surfaced plainly in the screenplay: one character remarks that the Aztecs believed hummingbirds are the reincarnations of fallen warriors, and others say that Marco, like hummingbirds, focuses all his energy on staying in place.
Representing a steady constant, it could be that Marco’s climactic speech is meant to be an emotionally satisfying payoff, by rejecting a fortune because he’s already happy with his life. But this feels disingenuous; there’s so much plot to get through, we never get inside Marco’s head, or truly feel that he’s found happiness, least of all contentment, in the wake of so much tragedy around him.
There’s also a recurring, somewhat underdeveloped, motif around mental illness; as a teenager, Marco’s older sister Irene suffers from depression and ultimately commits suicide; his wife Marina acts out, throwing herself at anyone and lashing out at Marco; and their daughter, Adele, forms what a doctor calls hallucinatory OCD due to Marco’s absence, in which she imagines herself being threaded to a wall. A possible through-line is that Marco feels responsible for the experiences of his sister and wife, believing he abandoned them, making him step up to be there more for Adele, who grows up to be a charming, well-adjusted young woman. Marco’s involvement obviously is a good thing, but the through-line of mental illness and how to address it also feels misguided, as if it were something that can be “solved” simply by being there.
Il colibrì is certainly narratively and artistically ambitious, sweeping through one man’s life, told out of order with a thematic rather than temporal linearity, but it ultimately falls flat in terms of delivering a substantive, emotional conclusion.
Il colibrì (The Hummingbird) was a nominee at the 2023 David di Donatello awards and is an official selection of the 49th Seattle International Film Festival! Explore more info at siff.net/festival. @SIFFnews #SIFF2023