365 DNI's Laura and Massimo set the Netflix screens on fire. Photo from Netflix
Culture Movies

This Polish ‘50 Shades of Grey’ is the softcore treat people are not talking about—but they’re watching

It’s the cheesy, trashy, campy, sexy hit stealing the thunder from the Koreans in Netflix. By ANDREW PAREDES
ANCX | Jun 11 2020

Directed by Barbara Bialowas, Tomasz Mendes

Starring Michele Morrone, Anna-Maria Sieklucka, Natasza Urbanska

How do you become the fastest number one movie on Netflix? Well, it helps when you advertise yourself as the Polish Fifty Shades of Grey. But be forewarned: To carry such a label, you better have the campiness down pat, as well as the willingness to overlook all the deeply problematic aspects of your material.

365 DNI—that’s 365 Days in Polish—certainly fulfills both requisites, and throws in a confused point of view for good measure. In stories like this, one that leads viewers into an exotic world of debauchery, it’s conventional wisdom to adopt the perspective of the more accessible character. 

Michele Morrone plays Massimo, the scion of a Sicilian mob family whose father gets assassinated.

And that would be Laura (Anna-Maria Sieklucka), a sales agent from Warsaw whose ball-busting, go-getting demeanor at her job does not preclude her enduring the neglect of a schlubby boyfriend (Mateusz Lasowski). But the film opens on Massimo (Michele Morrone), the scion of a Sicilian mob family whose father gets assassinated at the moment Massimo spies Laura at a beach in Lampedusa. 

Five years later, Laura goes on a birthday holiday to Sicily, so the unhealthily fixated Massimo has her kidnapped, saying that she has 365 days to fall in love with him…or else.

Or else…what? The film never really elucidates what threat lies behind that ultimatum. It’s too busy stringing its softcore sex scenes along on the flimsiest of plotlines to really care. The script can’t even get the power shifts within its central relationship straight. Laura keeps insisting that “Nobody owns me. I’m not an object,” even as she pouts and obediently puts on dresses and goes where she’s told. “I won’t do anything without your permission,” Massimo breathily promises, even when he has one hand on Laura’s boob and, at one point, shoves his hand down the front of her pants. 

Their dynamic for the first half of the film can be summed up this way: “Don’t provoke me.” “Or what?” “Don’t provoke me.” “Why?” Yes, sexual politics is a thing, and yes, it can be confusing; I’m just not sure it’s supposed to be this elliptical.

Morrone with Anna Maria Sieklucka who plays a ball-busting, go-getting sales agent from Warsaw.

It’s not very sporting of a critic to dump on a piece of unapologetic trash like 365 DNI, one that coasts along so blithely on the idea that Stockholm Syndrome and numerous shopping montages are essential to wooing any woman. You don’t watch a movie like this to get a crash course on 21st-century feminism. (The fact that two women—novelist Blanka Lipinska and filmmaker Barbara Bialowas—had a hand in creating this date-rape fantasy is less problematic than the fact that it took two directors to get it made.) 

And you certainly don’t watch it for the aesthetics: 365 DNI manages to make the cobbled alleyways of Naples, the storied antiquity of Rome, and the emergent modernity of Warsaw look like the same, neon-colored district of Miami.

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No, 365 DNI exists so you can indulge in some feverish fantasizing. And when it comes to looking good naked, the leads don’t disappoint. Sieklucka has a bland, symmetrical bone structure that lends a slight anonymity to her beauty. Morrone has those quintessentially Italian features—dark hair, droopy bedroom eyes, Romanesque nose, curvaceous lips—only more lavishly applied: He’s what an Italian man would look like if da Vinci had more paint at his disposal. (At one point, Laura waxes rhapsodic about her Mafia beau: “He’s a meter and 90 centimeters tall, has absolutely no body fat, and has been molded by God.”)

The leads writhe with such gymnastic exertion, they thrust the movie back to the early- to mid-‘90s heyday of cheesy softcore flicks—back to the days of Showgirls and Color of Night. (Don’t expect the taut psychological stylings of Basic Instinct, though; 365 DNI is much closer in execution to Basic Instinct 2.) There’s even a steady stream of trashy Europop on the soundtrack—two numbers are sung by the leading man himself—to lull you into your febrile dreams. So go ahead and indulge; just remember to shower after to get the dirt off.

 

365 DNI is currently streaming on Netflix

Photographs from Netflix