The ongoing saga of the Amanda Knox Case is ugly for many reasons. Not least because of that title. For it is not actually the ‘Amanda Knox Case’, it’s the Meredith Kercher Case; she was the undeserved victim of this brutal and heinous crime. But now, 7 years on, it is only the accused, Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, who we seem interested in remembering. Though not wholly successful on every level, Michael Winterbottom’s latest drama does at least succeed in addressing that problem.
Changing the names for narrative purposes, Winterbottom’s film uses the Knox trial, here the Jessica Fuller trial, as a platform from which to tell an entirely different story. At its heart is Thomas (Daniel Bruhl), a filmmaker we believes he has found his comeback by making a film about the Fuller case. Aided by American journalist Simone (Kate Beckinsale) and local waitress Melanie (Cara Delevingne), Thomas sets about trying to sort the fact from the fiction.
As a procedural drama it is a supremely effective piece. Using courtroom flashbacks, it lays out the facts of the case with delicate restraint that makes a gentle mockery of the tabloid journalists we see on screen, all of whom show little interest in the facts, and far more concern in producing something that’ll keep the readers/viewers entertained. It’s tense, its punchy, and fundamentally, its respectful. Working off of Paul Viragh’s script, Winterbottom instils many of these scenes with a poignant sense of loss for Meredith, here named Elizabeth, which cuts right to the heart of the sensationalism that has plagued the real trial.
The problem is that this is only half of the story, and as the focus shifts on to Thomas and the swirling vortex of issues and terrors roaming around inside his head, the film begins to loose track. Slowly it begins to develop into an uninvolving psychological drama, complete with cocaine-fuelled nightmares that are bathed in the ominous glow of medieval Tuscany. It’s nicely played sure. In fact, Delevingne’s performance is downright striking, her surprisingly natural charisma for acting lifting the film during these tonally darker and narratively weaker moments. But it fails to grip you like it did to begin with, and the further it falls down the rabbit hole, the less engaging it becomes.