Directed and co-written by Christopher Di Nunzio A Life Not to Follow is an inner-city neo-noir in three acts. With a modern day setting, an old fashioned crime family, a bent cop and a worn-out gumshoe, the film is at once a throw-back and a homage.
There are three separate vignettes tied together two characters. A young woman (played by Molly Kay) who is found, lost and then found again. Another person present in all three storylines is Luca Trapani (Michael Capozzi).
The first act is all about Eric DiVenardi (played by Fiore Leo). Eric is a man who took an unwilling fall for another member of a mob family. Sent to prison at 16, he does a lot of hard time.
Act two has Luca playing more of a part and it contains a “Godfather” type storyline.
The final act introduces former FBI agent, and insomniac private eye, Tobias King (David Graziano). He helps young Detective Sylvan (Nick Apostolides) on a case that bent cop Derby (William Bloomfield) will most likely take from the younger man.
The opening of the film with Eric, is at first glance, a bit off. The character speaks oddly, using stilted English and phrases that do not particularly fit. After a few moments however, the ex con’s speech pattern makes perfect sense.
DeVenardi went into prison as a teen and would have been influenced by what he read and watched in the jail. In a sense, Eric is trying too hard to be correct with his phrasing and it speaks volumes about the character.
All the characters look like they walked right off out of a courtroom or were freshly released from prison. The head of the families, the”soldiers,” the cops and the P.I. all scream Italian authenticity and they fit. Even the women feel like they belong in this world (with the exception of Cushing who is clearly not from this neighborhood.)
A Life Not Followed looks noir down to its very core. The locations, the sets and the environment fit the theme perfectly. Some of DeNunzio’s shots, by cinematographer Nolan Yee, are rich and beautifully framed.
The casting for this film was spot on. Major kudos to Capozzi, as the newly “made-man” who is so deceptively gentle at first glance. The actor impresses and manages to make his character almost likable right up until he commits a few heinous acts.
The real treasure in this film was Graziano as Tobias. Having only seen him in Chris Esper’s Still Life, where he played a college professor, it was a surprise to see that the actor convinced equally in both roles. Graziano was that overly tired private investigator.
Bloomfield was spot on as the dirty cop.
The Life Not Followed looks brilliant. The editing and the framing of each shot feels right. The film won an award and was nominated for another three.
The camerawork, which feels like it was all hand-held, is crisp and clear. It features a number of almost extreme close ups and in one sequence, the camera is sped up and slowed down, creating a jolting fast forward effect.
A couple of actors were a tad wooden but overall the dialogue and delivery fit the social stratum of the area.
A Life Not Followed features payback, revenge and betrayal. This is an enjoyable film that ladled on the neo-noir.
The film is a worthy 4 stars with an interesting concept and interaction between the three storylines.