Beginning at the end, Human Capital is the story of two families tied together by money, lies and the fate of a cyclist who is run off the road on a dark winter night.
Based on Stephen Amidon’s novel of the same name, Human Capital takes a look at the events that lead up to a road traffic accident, and how the choices of three people, from two different families, bring them all to a heartbreaking conclusion.
The cast, as a whole, give fantastic performances; Valeria Bruni Tedeschi plays the weary and bored actress-turned-housewife Carla, Fabrizio Bentivoglio plays Dino, a man more obsessed with appearances and statues than the value of his own – and other peoples’ – lives and Matilde Gioli rounds out the central trio as Serena, Dino’s daughter who is living a double life for the sake of appearances. The rest of the cast is made up of Guglielmo Pinelli, Luigi Lo Cascio, Fabrizio Gifuni and Giovanni Anzaldo.
Although it seems usual for great foreign language books to be made into English language movies, it seems unusual that Human Capital has gone on the opposite journey, Stephen Amidon’s novel is set in Connecticut, but the movie version has been transplanted to Italy. This actually turns out to be a great idea, as no-one does borderline melodrama, and ostentatious wealth quite like the Italians, so the movie suddenly has a layer of depth that was – presumably – absent from the book. The story is actually a rather simple one, but in telling three peoples’ stories individually before weaving them together, screenwriters Paolo Virzì, Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo have created a slow burning thriller that, while predictable in parts, keeps the mystery on the boil for much of the film. Splitting the narrative into the tales of the characters gives the audience a chance to get to know the people at the heart of the film, and keeps the thriller element of the film a live.
As director, Paolo Virzì allows the audience to deduce details about the story, but very much keeps us guessing until the last moment, about the true outcome of events. That said, there are times where the film runs out of steam a little, and the mystery goes a little off the boil as the story becomes engaged with subplots, rather than the vein that keeps the film together. There are also times when it seems that one character’s story is completely unnecessary, but this is swiftly resolved in the finale.
Human Capital casts an eye on the value of human life through the eyes of the rich, the wannabes and those who see people, not profit. The film is a great slow burn with fantastic performances, that siffers a little though a lack of focus and some strange pacing. When it all pulls together however, Human Capital is a great thriller filled with mystery and intrigue, that makes fantastic use of splitting the narrative; it’s pretty clear that this film would have been found lacking if it had used a linear format.