“The weird love stories are always the best,” asserts war-zone photographer Diego (Emile Hirsch) in actor-director Sergio Castellitto’s tortured melodrama, and it’s less a thesis statement than a peremptory defense—boy, does this gnarled, incoherent story need robust defending. Diego’s own tale of amour, not so much strange as contrived, involves a woman named Gemma (Penélope Cruz), whom he meets at the Sarajevo Olympics. Thanks to the movie’s flashback frame, we know Gemma ends up married to an Italian (Sergio Castellitto). Her relationship with Diego will meet an end as foreordained as the war that will split the city they live in.
Castellitto’s film is filled with so many lapses of taste, it’s impractical to catalog them all; mentioning a slo-mo shot of an exploding Kurt Cobain poster signaling the onset of hostilities will have to suffice. Twice Born isn’t incompetent, exactly: As she did in Castellitto’s similarly judgment-impaired Don’t Move (2004), Cruz shows a level of gravitas she rarely gets to tap into. But the movie’s nagging inconsistency goes from merely grating to flat-out jaw-dropping, courtesy of late-game plot twists that squander whatever benefit of the doubt may remain.
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