Italian director Laura Luchetti’s Twin Flower is a film that’s ultimately at war with itself, yet still manages to have the right side win out. The competing ideologies center between the film as a quiet romance and a thriller. Of the two narratives: the introspective romance is certainly the more captivating. The thriller, on the hand, falls prey to many of the cliches that accompany the genre.
Twin Flower centers around two characters: Basim (Kallil Kone) and Anna (Anastasiya Bogach). Basim is an Ivory Coast refugee, now surviving on the fringes of the Italian countryside, while Anna has just escaped from her kidnapper and murderer of her father, a black market dealer named Manfredi. The flowers that grow in the desert are often the strongest, and Basim and Anna are two fragile flowers who make one another resilient.
By chance, Basim and Anna find each other when Basim fends off male harassers from her. Anna is silent throughout the film, with very little dialogue. The film features multiple flashbacks and as we see Anna, once a talkative girl, and her father. Her silence is directly tied to trauma, leaving it difficult for her to fully trust anyone. And it’s the silence, the pained communication between her and Basim that makes the film.
Luchetti also offers some of the most exquisite shots of the Italian countryside since Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name. But unlike Guadagnino’s film, which is a portrait of palatial middle class existence, Luchetti’s Italian countryside is dry, seedy, and poor. The area requires Basim and Anna to scrape for resources, exploring to find what can be recycled or eaten. Relief is not given until Anna finds work with a florist, Fioraio (Giorgio Colangeli).
The film operates well during its slow burn of Basim and Anna’s relationship, but falters when it inserts the thriller component of Anna’s kidnapper, Manfredi (Aniello Arena), hunting her down. The ultimate confrontation is anti-climactic and one wonders why we waited through the whole film watching a shady guy asking random people if they’d seen a girl anywhere.
Instead, we’re better off traversing through Basim and Anna’s relationship. We’re better off exploring the prostitution work Basim must resort to to support himself or his friend Stella (Fausto Verginelli) doing the same in a small town. We’d like to stay in that sensual bathtub scene as Anna washes Basim. And thankfully, Luchetti realizes such and never strays us too far away from those quiet moments. It makes Twin Flower a subtle study of two people who need each other.