By Natasha Samreny
The first time I watched Amanda Knox, the film caught competition with impromptu roofers who decided to finish their job directly above my screening room as soon as the movie started. But I have to say Knox won.
Sure, it’s Lifetime, and I have the extra X chromosome recommended to appreciate one of their films. But Hayden Panettiere’s physical interpretation of the internal struggles that American Amanda Knox must have fought while under trial for murder in Italy, is striking. The movie imagines the true headline story of the young college student detained in Italian custody for months, accused of murdering her British roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007. The film is provocative, delivering more questions than answers for a case that was watched and critiqued internationally, especially for the brutal and possible sexual nature of the crime, as well as for the public media battle it instigated surrounding the credibility of both prosecutors and defense. This is the movie’s greatest strength: drawing its audience in to imagine the mental, emotional and private battles that one woman lives through a series of unbelievable but true events. However, the cinematic delivery suffers by trying to stuff too much into 90 minutes.
In the actual case, four years later the case is still unresolved. (While Italian authorities charged Amanda Knox, her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, and a second Italian Rudy Guede of sexual assault and murder, as of mid-2011, Knox and Sollecito were in the middle of an appeal process for their respective 20-plus year sentences.) Through classic Lifetime form of pregnant stares, telling music and deliberate, sometimes over-obvious pacing, we are convinced of the lack of resolution of the story (and therefore of the real murder case) and left with disbelief. Disbelief at the lack of forensic evidence allowed to convict three people of murder, and disbelief at the real vulnerability one could face, charged with a crime in a foreign country.
Frustratingly, the first part builds interest around Knox and Sollecito’s romantic relationship and their alleged involvement in Kercher’s assault and death. But halfway through, the movie stumbles and trips through limited flashback vignettes and slow-motion editing, as if trying to capture lost time between its soft-paced opening and more chaotic end. Panettiere’s ability to convey such a range of emotions with her eyes, face and tears is impressive, and fascinating enough to watch through the movie once. It is her pulling performance and the questioning nature of the movie that drew me back to the couch despite the knocking competition on the roof. I would have liked to see more dialog interaction between Panettiere and Marcia Gay Harden, and Knox’s Italian prosecutor Giuliano Magnini as played by Vincent Riotta. In the end, while the DVD’s feature film offered a compelling emotional dissection, the disc’s 40-some minute documentary extra delivered a more straightforward analysis of the facts surrounding the case. But maybe there will be a sequel pending the verdicts of the young students’ appeals, and the trials surrounding their cases.