In June 2020, as a hot and deranged world went through a summer of lockdown, Netflix introduced a Polish-Italian erotic drama called 365 days in your algorithm. A soft fantasy of sex on a yacht, thick accents, and unsettling consent issues, it seemed like a low rent. Fifty Shades of Grey: flashier, trashier, tamer and more offensive, and much more incompetent and corny. An unequivocally terrible movie, it was also a huge success. It went straight to number one on the Netflix chart and logged 10 days there, being one of the longest stretches the service has ever seen.
Now we have a sequel, 365 days: this day, which features more sex (or at least more participants), more disturbing, more expensive cars and clothes, more unintentional comedy, even less plot, and the same number of visible penises (zero). As difficult as it sounds, it’s even worse than the first movie. But it goes smoother, because a lot of the ugly side of the first movie has been smoothed out. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Well, that depends on why someone was looking in the first place. To distinguish it, we have to revisit the original.
Based on the first in a trilogy of erotic novels by Polish author Blanka Lipińska, 365 days follows a young woman, Laura (Anna-Maria Sieklucka) from Warsaw to Sicily, where she is discovered and promptly kidnapped by Massimo (Michele Morrone), a brilliant, chiseled and obscenely rich mafia scion. It turns out that Massimo has been obsessed with Laura ever since he saw her on a beach, through binoculars, the day her father was murdered and he almost died himself. (The film doesn’t take the time to explore why a bullet passing through her father’s body and into his own would have such a lingering erotic charge for Massimo, but wow.)
Massimo says that he will hold Laura captive for 365 days, long enough for her to fall in love with him. But while he desperately wants her and is used to taking whatever he wants, he vows to refrain from raping her. What a gentleman. The fiery Laura returns to him throughout her captivity, but without the horror that her situation seems to demand. At the risk of spoiler, before the 365 days are up, they consensually get down to business in a series of very lustful and surprisingly vanilla-tinged sex scenes.
This grotesque and disturbing setup sparked a lot of conversation at the time. An early scene in which Massimo demands and receives wordless oral sex from one of his employees has a distinctly unpleasant flavor of sexual violence. The smooth and largely unwrinkled nature of the rest of the hijinks is still tinged by the coercion inherent in the film’s premise. The film was co-directed and co-written by women, and was based on a book written by a woman, but the male gaze dominates both the narrative and the prurient presence of the camera.
Abduction as an established female sexual fantasy, with its complex layers of control and consent, is too broad and sensitive a topic for this review. Than 365 days The fact is to create a kind of safe aesthetic space for this fantasy. With its skinny characters, poor acting, ridiculously tired plot, music video direction, and genre that is only explicit to a point, 365 days it’s porn but it doesn’t. It doesn’t have the emotional stakes of real drama, nor the stigma of real smut. You can laugh about it. (It might also explain why people choose to watch stuff like this, even when it’s right up there with full frontal nudity and explicit unsimulated sex from someone like Gaspar Noé. Lovewhich was also on Netflix for a while).
All these qualities are subsequently shared. 365 days: this dayexcept those who made the first haunting movie but gave it their (few, crooked) teeth. Adapted from the second of Lipińska’s books, This day picks up where the first film left off – more or less. In one of the clumsy detours and clumsy, pointless elisions that are the unfortunate trademark of directors Barbara Białowąs and Tomasz Mandes, 365 daysThe cliffhanger ending is bluntly ruled out. It’s Laura and Massimo’s wedding day!
After some boning, it is revealed that Laura lost the child she was expecting at the end of the first movie, but whatever, no more boning. Massimo is still contained and controlled, but now within the context of a ‘normal’ mafia-trophy-wife marriage, and he’s still boned. Laura’s best friend Olga (the charming and talkative Magdalena Lamparska, again the most prominent artist by far) joins Massimo’s right-hand man Domenico (Otar Saralidze) to join the party.
Nothing else happens during the first half of this movie. Wasting the narrative tension of the first film, and in no particular hurry to mount his own, This day it begins as a bland, redundant setting for imaginary sex. In the second half, soap opera-level melodrama reluctantly boils over. Massimo’s ex has a nefarious plan, Massimo has a family he hasn’t mentioned, and Laura is visited by the mysterious and handsome gardener Nacho, who wears a hat that literally says “rooster.” It’s all very silly in a way that’s almost endearing, even if handled so carelessly that it can still get boring.
365 days: this day it frequently crumbles into a slow-moving haze of slow-motion montages that don’t really distinguish between shots of sex, shopping, supercars, and heartwarming family dinners. Wealth porn is just as important as porn. There’s a Europop carpet numb about it all, part of which is sung by Morrone himself. (A couplet of your choice: “I’m a bit of a psycho / I drive you like a Lambo”).
Stripped of the problematic premise of the first film, This day it’s easier to enjoy yourself as a guilt-free camp. There are bland, mature abandonment moments that are downright hilarious, whether intentionally or (more likely) not. The white Lamborghini bride. The honeymoon game of sexual golf, where Laura dances on the green flag, then open your legs to invite Massimo’s putt. Chains that have “fuck me” engraved in gold. The extraordinary display of glasses throughout, as Massimo and Laura mask their pouting pouts, constipated frowns, and sexual grimaces in increasingly outlandish assemblages of stained glass. (Speaking of 50 shades.)
There’s nothing like reality here, and certainly nothing like real sex. There isn’t much sex at all in the last half hour, as the plot as it stands goes to work and sets up an ending that the inevitable third movie will likely ignore. There is no gambling, and there is little that is offensive, except the art and craft of filmmaking. It is funny. It is brilliant. It’s a fantasy, it’s true. It’s soft.
365 days: this day It is now streaming on Netflix.