A young woman is making dinner in her apartment by herself when she hears a knock on the door. When she answers it, it’s a representative of an electric utility company, which has a sales offer for local families. The woman is intrigued — not by the offer, but with the salesman’s handsome looks and charming demeanor.
The woman invites him to sit down to not just talk about the offer, but share the dinner that she’s been cooking. They talk easily, and bond over Russian literature. But just as the evening takes a promising turn, things go awry, with one mishap leading to another increasingly bloody one.
Written and directed by Emanuele Daga, this short comedy begins to the romantic side, setting up a “meet-cute” between two attractive and charming people at a seemingly fortuitous moment, portrayed in a cozily domestic, cheerful light.
For the first part of the film, viewers will be swept into an effervescent romance, complete with sweet dialogue, a light and frothy musical score and pacing that shapes the pair’s growing connection and attraction into a beguiling waltz. Actors Anna Bellato and Luigi De Pietro have lovely chemistry together onscreen, and it’s fun to watch them awkwardness and a gentle flirtation.
But then the plot takes an unexpected turn, spinning what seems like a whimsical mishap into a deadly accident. The genre, too, shifts from romantic to dark, as the young woman tries to clean up each mistake. Her attempts only lead to more disaster — especially when a nosy neighbor gets involved — and much of the rest of the film tracks the outlandish attempts to hide the young woman’s accidental yet no less deadly body count.
Much of the film’s humor is underplayed, mining the ironies of treating a cover-up of murder like a farce, especially in how a flustered and flummoxed Bellato plays each victim as another mess to deal with. But the storytelling keeps its tone of gentle, sharply witty affection throughout, maintaining its now improbably cheerful score and light comic pacing even as the pressure mounts. But things never get too dark or take themselves too seriously, even when the young woman navigates an increasing web of obstacles to cover up her mistakes.
“Menage a Trois” is a salacious title, but its meaning is both true and unexpected in the context of the film, especially in light of its deft narrative sleight-of-hand. Though the film is in Italian, it has the lightness of a French souffle, managing the trick of making a story about murder without any real violence. It’s overall great fun, capped with a lemon twist of a zinger that, like the film, is both mordant and antic at the same time.