Antonio Pane (Antonio Albanese) is a 48-year-old blue-collar journeyman who has spent his life bouncing from odd job to odd job. Some days he is a cook at a five-star restaurant. On others, he could be cleaning out coffins or ripping apart cars at a junkyard. It’s hard work, often physical, but Antonio finds pleasure in each position and meaning in a largely faceless world.

Bully for Antonio because the world of L’intrepido: A Lonely Hero isn’t just faceless; it’s practically empty. This is a world familiar to the existentialist writings of Camus, Dostoevsky, and Sartre, but unlike those authors, Antonio is a happy-go-lucky protagonist moving breezily through life without much care toward the grave matters at hand.

Antonio is an educated man who could easily land a cushy position somewhere, but he prefers to be everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. He is a fast learner, which makes him a perfect fit for this kind of work, but a chance encounter with his ex-wife, Adriana (Sandra Ceccarelli), alludes to more than Antonio would like to admit. Some people find their identity in work. Others find a way to escape it.

That search for identity lies at the heart of L’intrepido.

Like most people, Antonio does not live in this world, but his world, choosing to play by the rules that suit him best and the reality that pleases him the most. But Antonio can only control his reality for so long. That fact becomes painfully obvious when Antonio starts a relationship with a younger woman, Lucia (Livia Rossi), and learns that his outlook may help him, but it cannot help everyone.

Antonio’s plight is further compounded when he takes a position as a shoe salesman, one that painfully reveals to Antonio that there may be nothing but hollowness in his wanderings. It is an incredibly visual and powerful moment—one that director Gianni Amelio doesn’t dwell on long enough—that speaks to just how alone Antonio is in this journey.

Much like the wandering Antonio, L’intrepido is chocked full of ideas but lacks focus. It is a pretty picture to look at, with Amelio and cinematographer Luca Bigazzi photographing Antonio in large, vast spaces of nothingness. Antonio is but a humble human face amongst the modern angles of steel, glass, and concrete, but that face is what makes L’intrepido work.

L’intrepido is not about the work of the everyman but about the facelessness of that worker. Who is this man selling roses on the side of the road? What kind of situation is he in? What kind of family does he have? Or did he have? No one knows because no one pauses to care. If they did, they would find that he isn’t faceless at all, but he is far too familiar. That realization can be jarring.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

L’intrepido (2013)
Directed by Gianni Amelio
Written by Gianni Amelio, Davide Lantieri
Produced by Carlo Degli Esposti, Nicola Serra
Starring: Antonio Albanese, Livia Rossi, Gabriele Rendina, Sandra Ceccarelli
Emerging Pictures, Not rated, Running time 104 minutes, Premiered August 4, 2014 at the Venice Film Festival.

The above review first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 52, No. 42, “One is the loneliest number.”