Should I Watch..? '365 Days' (2020)
What's the big deal?
365 Days (as known as 365 Dni) is an erotic drama film released in 2020 and is based on the book of the same name by Polish author and cosmetologist Blanka Lipińska. The film follows a young Polish woman who is snatched from her everyday life by a Sicilian mob boss and who then gives her a year to fall in love with him. Heavily inspired by the successful 'Fifty Shades' trilogy and their subsequent movie adaptations, this film stars Michele Morrone, Anna-Maria Sieklucka, Bronislaw Wroclawski, Otar Saralidze and Magdalena Lamparska and was co-directed by Barbara Bialowas and Tomasz Mandes. The film was briefly released in cinemas here in the UK and in its native Poland before it was quickly made available on streaming service Netflix after the forced closure of cinemas due to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the film quickly gained international recognition due to its explicit sex scenes and inevitable comparison to Fifty Shades Of Grey. Despite the film's popularity, the critical reception was much less positive and at the time of writing, the film is currently 56th in the Bottom 100 films on IMDb.
What's it about?
At a clandestine meeting between the Torricelli crime family and black market traders, youthful Massimo Torricelli is distracted by the sight of a beautiful woman on the beach. Suddenly, Massimo's father is shot dead by a sniper and Massimo himself is critically injured. Fast forward five years and Massimo is now head of the family and responsible for multiple crimes and violent assaults. However, he has been tortured by the image of the woman on the beach and has spent much of his subsequent life looking for her.
Meanwhile, English-speaking Polish businesswoman Laura is on holiday to celebrate her 29th birthday but things go wrong after she finally has enough of her inattentive boyfriend Martin. Storming off after he embarrasses her, she manages to get lost and bumps into Massimo who kidnaps her. When she wakes up, he explains that he has been chasing the woman he saw on the beach that day and he gives Laura 365 days to fall in love with him. Despite the luxurious surroundings she finds herself in, Laura is adamant that such a thing will never happen but over time, her opinion of her captor begins to change...
Trailer (Polish language)
Don Massimo Torricelli
Barbara Bialowas & Tomasz Mandes
114 minutes, though it felt longer...
Release Date (UK)
14th February, 2020
Drama, Erotic, Romance
What's to like?
It can sometimes be hard to look for positives in a film as definitely shonky as 365 Days but as someone who has yet to subject themsel... I mean, watch Fifty Shades Of Grey, I can only judge this film on initial appearance. And it's actually a very pretty film to watch, featuring some sun-drenched locations around the Med and some of Poland's prettiest urban architecture, both contemporary and traditional. Of course, we also have two extremely attractive stars as our lead lovers - Morrone, who also contributes as a singer on a number of songs featured in the film, has the look of a tanned and more rugged leading man than Jamie Dornan's urbane socialite and is naturally more dangerous, which makes him more interesting. Sieklucka bravely does everything the film asks of her and even has dialogue in Polish, Italian and English, which is impressive to someone like myself who can only realistically speak English, Drunk and Sarcasm.
To be honest, if you're a fan of Fifty Shades then I expect this will undoubtedly float your boat. The film appears to mirror the film adaptation very closely, even using colourful and moody lighting in scenes to counter the darkness that otherwise obscures troublesome naughty bits. Regarding the film's use of nudity, it's only really shocking for anyone who hasn't surfed the darker side of the web but I presume that this is for box office reasons only - no point making a film completely pornographic because it would never get shown in cinemas although that didn't stop 9 Songs from appearing in theatres in the UK. As it turned out, such fears would become redundant as a result of the global lockdown. Funny how things turn out, isn't it?
- The film proved hugely controversial in Poland where critics accused the film of being anti-feminist and misogynistic - accusations that were also mirrored by the international press. Anti-rape organisation Pro Empower wrote an open letter to Netflix demanding that the film be removed as well as Welsh singer-songwriter Duffy, who had recently revealed that she had been kidnapped and raped.
- Morrone was on the verge of quitting his acting career before he received the script. Recently divorced, depressed and broke, he was working as a gardener in northern Italy when his agent called. He then called in sick to his boss and boarded a plane to Poland and has since become an international star.
- Writer Lipinska was eager for a cameo, even suggesting herself for the part of the flight attendant who... erm, "attends" to Massimo until the production company intervened, eventually casting her as a bride during a wedding scene. She also insisted that the moment where Massimo spits onto Laura during one sex scene be reinserted after it was previously cut, claiming that it was a popular gesture among Polish couples.
What's not to like?
It would be churlish of me to begin pointing out the movie's many flaws without addressing the elephant in the room. The film's narrative isn't just absolute twaddle but morally reprehensible as well. Neither Massimo or Laura are particularly likable as characters - I mean, who is actually rooting for these characters to get together? One is a violent and psychopathic gangster, the other is so blinded to her man's faults that she is willing to love him despite knowing his brutal behaviour and crimes. She even apparently agrees to go on with being hostage against her will, despite knowing how upset her friends, family and boyfriend will be at her sudden disappearance. Laura is just as manipulative as her captor and to be honest, I simply didn't care about either of them. So what that she has to wear a dress and go to a ball? None of this claptrap matters anyway!
Sticking so closely to the Fifty Shades template that it almost borders on parody, the film is an awkward mess of clunky dialogue, dead-on-arrival chemistry and boring stretches where characters disappear and pop back again whenever it's convenient. The direction is uninspired and for much of the running time, very little makes sense. I mean, of course it feels like it was written by a horny pre-teen but then again, so did the film that inspired this rot. Even the film's soundtrack, composed mostly of previously unheard pop songs courtesy of Mr Morrone, drops the ball as it is far too frequently interrupting scenes and far too loud. At times, 365 Days feels like one of those music videos that only get aired late at night, except this is even more shallow somehow. Essentially, the film is a slow and plodding bonkfest with unlikable characters, an intrusive soundtrack, pretty but uninspired scenery and possibly the worst plot of any film I've seen for a great number of years. And I'm including the nadir of cinema known as The Room in that statement. At least Morrone knows where a vagina is...
Should I watch it?
There's a very real chance that you may have already but if you haven't then do yourself a favour and stay away from this morally bankrupt, cheap titillation as much as possible. It doesn't do anyone any favours besides Morrone and Sieklucka, exposing them to an international audience that they may never have had the opportunity to appear in front of. Sadly, like the rest of the film, they don't acquit themselves very well and the film is little more than a repugnant side-note in the turgid waters of erotic cinema.
Great For: anyone wanting a holiday in Italy, horny couples under lockdown, anyone who haven't seen Fifty Shades Of Grey or its sequels
Not So Great For: the reputation of Polish cinema, Lipinska's reputation as an author, your reputation if you admit you liked this film
What else should I watch?
If you haven't twigged yet that this is essentially a European version of Fifty Shades Of Grey then I withdraw permission for you to read any more of my reviews. The blockbusting adaptation of E.L. James' best-selling trilogy, the film series defied the critics to earn a combined total of $1.32 billion at the box office thanks to the steamy combination of Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. Other films you could consider include Lie With Me, a film that had the good grace to die after one entry but featured unsimulated sex between the actors and the equally explicit 9 Songs which is a pretentious blend of pop concerts, sex scenes and boring improvisation.
I don't know what it is about films that are categorised as 'erotic' but I'm struggling to think of any that I could recommend unless you wanted to poke fun at a film instead of get caught up in its passion. Whether it's flaccid thrillers like Body Of Evidence or In The Cut, genuinely laughable efforts like Killing Me Softly or the increasingly awkward Last Tango In Paris which has aged about as well as a gangrenous wound, few films manage to rise above being mere titillation to become worthy pieces of cinema in their own right. If you know any erotic films worth watching then please suggest them in the comments below!
© 2020 Benjamin Cox