“The Asteroids” (“Gli Asteroidi”) was shown at this year’s Locarno Festival as part of the main competition. Director Germano Maccioni tries to turn a young adult drama into a gangster film, with elements of science fiction and an underlying social critique. Unfortunately, the result is a messy story which gives the impression that the director did not know exactly what he wanted to convey, if anything.

The pairing of professional actors with many non-professional ones makes the weaker performances stand out as extremely bad. The choice of casting non-professional actors is a brave move and should be treated as such: in fact, the director has to spend a lot of time with the actors, and provide an environment that will help them to get into character. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have happened with “The Asteroids”, or if it has it was definitely not effective for at least some of the actors. The result is that the generally good quality of the secondary actors’ performances are overshadowed by the bad performances of two or three actors playing some of the main characters.

One thing the film does manage to convey very well is the protagonist´s internal struggle, but unfortunately that alone is not able to contrast the many flaws of the film. Some scenes are surprisingly effective, but they are soon followed by disappointing ones, so that we are left with not hope that the film might get better. Moreover, the film tries at times to be poetic and transcend its gangster narrative, but ends up being pathetic and pretentious.

It cannot be denied that there is some sign of good direction in “The Asteroids”, and hopefully Maccioni will soon find his own style and a more purpose-driven approach to filmmaking. Nevertheless, this film is still a misfire. Its many flaws outnumber its very few positive aspects, and it is definitely a film to be avoided, especially considering the excellent quality of many other films in competition at this year’s Locarno Festival.

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