Like sheep among wolves (2023) by Lida Patitucci

Lida Patitucci’s debut feature film, Like Sheep Among Wolves, stitches the structure of a crime film around a nuanced psychological and family drama in which characters reveal themselves, develop and question themselves as the story progresses. An example of the rejuvenation of themes and narrative techniques of the genre for Italian cinema, depth and support.

Both cops and robbers

True this is an undercover policewoman who has long since infiltrated a gang of Serbian criminals: the woman is an intermediary for the clan, or someone who obtains materials (weapons, above all), while at the same time informing her superiors about the next steps of the gang, waiting for the right moment to stop. Cajetan AND Bruno instead, they are two small-time Italian criminals who met in prison, who survive on petty theft and robbery worth several hundred euros; the second, in particular, would like to disassociate himself from the criminal environment in order to be able to raise his young daughter in a healthy way, already struggling with a depressed mother who has been at odds with her partner for some time. When Gaetano proposes to Bruno for a major armored car coup led by a Serbian gang, the situation becomes potentially explosive: Bruno and Vera are essentially brother and sister, albeit long separated. Thus, a woman tasked with arresting a gang during a coup will have to decide whether to report her brother or try to make her mission impossible to reconcile with family ties.

Impossible redemption

Like sheep among wolves, Tommaso Ragno in one scene
Like sheep among wolves, Tommaso Ragno in a still from the movie

Born under the productive auspices of Greenland Matteo Rovere, a true factory for new generations of recent Italian cinema, this Like sheep among wolves consistently fulfills what has always been the company’s production mission: that is, to rejuvenate Italian popular cinema with obscure themes and storytelling techniques, restoring the notion of “genre” (and its narrative formulas), but at the same time giving it a local character. and current specificity, capable of going beyond the reuse of the formulas of the past and the simple tracking of overseas models. The purpose of this debut feature film Lida Patitucci (former co-director of films such as Fast as the wind AND First kingthen among the directors of the Netflix series curon) is translated into a tense neo-noir, all saturated with the moods of a viscous and oppressive Rome in its stubborn retention of characters, filmed mostly at night; a context in which identities and roles mix, loneliness and redemption collide, whether understood in a purely secular or religious sense (as for the cruel leader of the Serbs, Dragan, or for the equally fanatical father of Vera), seems impossible.

Caused violence

Like sheep among wolves, a scene from a movie
Like sheep among wolves, still from the film by Lida Patitucci

The script of the film, in the tradition of the genre, blurs and problematizes the roles and ethics of the main characters, introducing the figure of Vera ( Isabella Ragonese who offers here one of her best recent trials) as a bundle of nerves always ready to burst, with stories of loneliness and rejection behind her, no longer sure of the very meaning of her actions and her belonging; while his brother Bruno (actual Andrey Arkhangelsky) is presented, on the other hand, as a small fish caught in a net larger than him, but, paradoxically, more concentrated sister in that she clearly defined her goal: to guarantee her daughter a better future than her own. Two complementary beings forced towards different goals and in search of an impossible (re-)reconciliation as the situation around them becomes more dangerous and the realization grows that one wrong step can be the last. Violence, I Like sheep among wolvesis almost always assumed to be in the buildup of tension that goes hand in hand with Vera’s nervous movements, with those ripples in her hard face that indicate a fragility her time in the gang can’t hide. Only the harsh opening and closing sequence make more explicit the brutality, which for the rest is almost always called out, threatening and, perhaps for this reason, more difficult to bear.

Black who asks questions

Like sheep among wolves, Andrea Arcangeli in the scene
Like sheep among wolves, Andrea Arcangeli in a still from the movie

The script demonstrates the depth and balance of the characters’ experiences, redefining them in parallel with the events, describing plausible storylines even in minor figures (think of the small-time criminal Gaetano, played by Gennaro DiColandreaor to Vera’s father, a die-hard Protestant priest with the face of the best Thomas Spider). The main character herself, a lonely outsider with no connections, develops (more precisely: reveals herself) progressively, gaining a sense of self-defense, not necessarily and not only in a maternal sense, just when her brother’s intrusion into her life introduces its unnatural character. but perhaps comfortably, the status quo is in crisis. This paramount focus on multi-faceted and subtle psychology makes Lida Patitucci’s film a particularly interesting genre experiment, including how it reinvents crime without distorting its foundations: these criminals and cops, far from having the epic stature of many of their television counterparts (and not only), are very, perhaps, too close to us in temperament and knots to untie them. That is probably why the moments of obvious violence on the part of Like sheep among wolves they hit harder thanks to the believability the film has built into its story, with narrative tension able to profitably draw on psychological introspection. And in that sense, it doesn’t matter if the last part tends to drag out the story, perhaps too much, and if some lengthiness—the storyline of the protagonist’s neighbor’s dog—breaks the rhythm here and there: you leave the vision restless and satisfied. , for how genre noir (this time ditching local sauce) managed to question us once again about topics that more than ever felt intimate. Not giving answers, but making the weight of questions your main strength.


Like sheep among wolves, poster



Original name: Like sheep among wolves
Director: Lida Patitucci
Country/year: Italy / 2023
Duration: 99′
Type: Drama, Crime, Thriller
Throw: Tommaso Ragno, Isabella Ragonese, Andrea Arcangeli, Gennaro Di Colandrea, Carolina Michelangeli, Imma Villa, Simone Pezzotti, Alan Katic, Alexander Gavranich, Clara Ponsot, Gabriele Portogese, Milos Timotievich
Screenplay: Philip Gravino
Photo: Joseph Mayo
Assembly: Joseph Trepiccione
Music: Geneva Nervi
Director: Matthew Oak
Production house: Paradise Cinema, Greenland
Distribution: Fandango

Release date: 07/13/2023


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Journalist and film critic. I am or have collaborated with various web and print publications including (in chronological order) L’Acchiappafilm, and Since 2018, I have been a consultant for the Stelle Diverse and Aspie Saturday Film psychoeducational reviews organized by the CuoreMenteLab center in Rome. In 2019, I founded the website Asbury Movies, of which I am the Editor and Managing Director.

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