Review by John P Harvey
Palace Cinemas, Settembre–Ottobre 2018
Some of the major organised religions, in the process of being made redundant by more robust authoritative superstitions and thus becoming more vulnerable to mockery, provide an opportunity to play in the minefield between respect (for unfounded beliefs) and responsibility (to question them). And writer and director Alessandro Aronadio has, in passing, done exactly that in Just Believe, whose greater purpose is to bring us an entertaining story of what can occur when any institution relying on blind faith — even in one’s own rightness — is taken seriously.
Edoardo Leo (of the I Can Quit Whenever I Want trilogy) plays Massimo, the co-owner, with his sister Adriana (Margherita Buy, Days and Clouds; Mia Madre) of a B&B that has fallen on hard times through economic ”austerity”.
Looking to save the B&B from a combination of low patronage and multiple taxes, Massimo approaches the local priest, imam, and rabbi to conduct services in his establishment — all of whom refuse him.
Realising that the major recognised religions keep a tight rein on their untaxed monopolies, Massimo has an epiphany: he can turn the B&B into a place of residential worship by founding his own religion. But his sister convinces him that he needs help from the man he’d least like to have help from: his ex-wife’s new husband, Marco (Giuseppe Battiston, Perfect Strangers; The Last Prosecco). It’s largely Marco’s marketing genius that pushes Massimo over the edge and into the role of accidental messiah to those in need of trust in their own judgement.
And the rest is… scripture.
Whilst the acting keeps it amusing throughout, what holds this entertaining movie together is its careful storytelling, keeping the sequence of events quite believable and making us keen to see what will occur next. Leo’s Massimo is a character who at first seems, and probably is, shallow but who, as the tale progresses, becomes more than he was.
And the surprising outcome of acting on his better judgement makes for an interesting turn to which the tale adds a final twist of whimsy.