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‘I Don’t Understand You’ Review: Nick Kroll and Andrew Rannells’ Unconventional Italian Adventure Takes an Unexpected Twist

In Brian Crano and David Craig’s unconventional queer comedy, two soon-to-be fathers organize an adventurous anniversary getaway, misunderstanding cultural nuances in manners that could potentially threaten their adoption aspirations.I Don't Understand You

Swanning around Italy like characters from the second season of “The White Lotus,” affluent gay couple Dom (Nick Kroll) and Cole (Andrew Rannells) perceive the world as conspiring against them. Despite living in a time and place where they can legally marry, adopt, and enjoy most of the privileges straight couples do, their past experiences with discrimination make them anticipate rejection and homophobia at every turn. Their expectations for the worst seem to materialize at every opportunity.

Loosely inspired by filmmakers Brian Crano and David Craig’s own journey to fatherhood, the biting black comedy “I Don’t Understand You” portrays a period in Dom and Cole’s relationship when everything appears to be going smoothly … until it suddenly isn’t. While celebrating their anniversary in Italy, they receive news that the baby they’ve been eagerly awaiting (after one adoption fell through) is about to be born. An old family friend arranges for them to have a special meal at a secluded restaurant. And so it goes. La vita è bella.

As the vacation progresses, what initially seemed like a sunny “Eat, Gay, Love” tale takes a dark turn. Suddenly, dead bodies start piling up, and Dom and Cole find themselves unsure if they’ve narrowly escaped a hate crime or unwittingly become perpetrators against their hospitable hosts, who seem genuinely kind. Yet, gestures like wielding knives and cryptic phrases like “You’re going to be dey-ud” are easily misinterpreted by Dom and Cole, who have felt persecuted throughout their lives. Their lack of understanding of the local culture and language only exacerbates the situation, leading to rapid escalations.

Objectively, Dom and Cole exhibit troubling behavior (details of which are best left unrevealed to avoid spoiling the film). However, “I Don’t Understand You” isn’t concerned with how these characters might fare in a legal context. Kroll and Rannells portray the couple with a palpable “us-against-the-world” mentality that draws the audience to sympathize with them, even when their panic attacks and public displays of affection walk a fine line between endearing and cringeworthy.

The fact that the writer-directors are also married adds a layer of authenticity to the film, as their own experiences likely influence the underlying anxieties depicted, albeit in an exaggerated manner. This authenticity is a key reason why the movie resonates: While Dom and Cole’s situation spirals out of control in wildly comedic ways, the emotional foundation feels genuine. Despite their imperfections, the couple’s desire to become parents overrides everything else, leading them to interpret various situations — from perceived microaggressions, such as the awkward encounter with the hotel clerk who questions their booking choice, to more overt threats — through the lens of their intense longing for a child.

On their way to their dinner reservation, Dom and Cole find themselves stuck in a ditch after mistakenly turning down a private driveway. When the landowner arrives, armed with a shotgun and a gruff demeanor, the couple immediately fear the worst. Their lack of knowledge of the Italian language exacerbates their anxiety, with Dom’s attempts at learning through Duolingo proving insufficient. Their expressions betray their thoughts: just when they were on the brink of becoming fathers, they now fear meeting a grim fate in some remote Italian locale.

However, to their relief, the stern stranger eventually helps them out of the ditch and delivers them safely to the restaurant. This encounter leaves Dom and Cole reconsidering their initial assumptions about the locals’ hostility. Co-directors Crano and Craig deftly maintain a delicate balance of tension at this point, leaving the outcome uncertain. Despite being charmed by the rustic charm of the restaurant and its proprietor, Francesca (played by “White Lotus” veteran Eleonora Romandini), Dom and Cole’s overactive imaginations lead them to misinterpret Francesca and her son (portrayed by Morgan Spector) as potential threats, especially when they wield knives.

Tonally, “I Don’t Understand You” channels the twisted, expect-the-worst vibe reminiscent of classic Danny DeVito movies such as “Ruthless People” and “The War of the Roses.” However, the script’s cynicism appears mostly surface-level. Despite their initial fears, a pregnant stranger (played by Amanda Seyfried, who also starred in Crano’s short “Dog Food” and appears here through a series of video calls) generously offers to gift them her fetus. Additionally, Francesca seems genuinely thrilled to be hosting a gay couple, representing a joy her own son never experienced. However, Dom and Cole’s inability to understand her language or read subtitles exacerbates their anxieties.

As the film progresses, the part where cross-cultural miscommunication leads to chaos falls flat. While the filmmakers acknowledge the wariness that gays raised in less accepting times may carry with them, akin to a form of PTSD, the farce feels forced. A less extreme account of the directors’ Italian anniversary trip—one without the body count—might have been more effective. Nevertheless, the movie frames the couple’s actions as a reflection of their strong desire to become parents. The fact that they are portrayed as not just imperfect but downright deranged is indicative of the progress that has been made in societal acceptance.

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