There’s a sickly yellow tint to the photograph here, sawing angst in the score, meaning that even a moment of joyous summer relaxation – a water fight between children – is undermined by a latent sense of unease. Bad stories, the second feature film by Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, is a slippery thing, an urban fairy tale that takes place under cautious storm clouds in a sweltering suburb of Rome. Three families, not exactly friends but neighbors in a state of gross coexistence, are at the center of a story told by an unknown man. He claims the story comes from a girl’s diary, but sows the possibility of untruths.
There is a runoff of toxicity in this disappointed backwater, which originates from the men of the families. Children pick up resentment, boastful sexuality that carries a tinge of grieved anger. How lucky are these children? A pregnant teenager carries her parental incapacity with a mocking smile; College boys Dennis and Alessia stick together as their father expresses his unpredictable anger. And hail Geremia struggles to talk to the beautiful Viola, whose father discusses her academic mediocrity as if she wasn’t present. Parental indifference does not tune in to the looming tragedy of this horribly gripping fable.