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Enea is in his early thirties and looking for the love of his life. Enea is also looking for his first physical encounter with a woman. Enea is obsessed with a girl from a magazine picture; he calls her Caterina. Enea’s two friends, Alex and Carlo don’t seem to have trouble getting girls. Enea gives his best but women seem to escape him, merely feel sympathy for him or even ignore him. Enea is mentally disabled.
Alex and Carlo want to help their friend so they try to hire a prostitute in their city, Udine, so Enea can understand what it feels like to be with a woman. However, the girls they talk to get reluctant when they hear about Enea’s disability. After consulting with a psychologist, the three friends jump in their van and travel to Austria and take Enea to a brothel. For some reason, he decides to stand up and leave once it looks like he is going to get what he was longing for.
Partially frustrated, Alex takes a night stroll and finally a brilliant idea pops in his mind: someone told him about a center in Germany where psychologists have sexual intercourse with people with mental problems. Alex talks to Carlo and Enea and once they get the latter’s green light they hit the road again. In the center, Enea suffers a big disappointment when the specialists there give him a harsh but truthful insight of reality: he will probably never be with a girl like Caterina.
Enea’s tears are wiped away when Ute, one of the psychologists in the center, unravels the big mystery sex has always been for him. In his words “they touch each other, caress each other and lick each other. But he doesn’t put his birdie in the butterfly”. Why? Alex asks later on. Enea’s answer is as natural as himself: “because she’s not the woman of my life”.
Following the specialists advice, Enea looks for his woman close to his home. And he finally musters the courage and declares his love to Francesca, one of the girls from the theatre lessons he takes. But alas, Francesca has a boyfriend.
Back in the van, direction nowhere, Enea cries again while Alex and Carlo’s somber faces speak by themselves. “Do you think I will ever find a beautiful girl?” His friends say yes. “Maybe not soon but yes, we think so”. Enea turns on the radio and sings the song that’s playing while wipes his tears away. “I’ve learned a lot though, right?” And now Alex and Marco smile and respond: “Yes. And we have too”.
The Special Need appears under the category of documentary in IMDB and under the same category it’s won a bunch of awards. As far as I’m concerned, The Special Need is neither a documentary nor a fiction. As far as I’m concerned, The Special Need is the reason why we tell stories. Enea, Marco and Alex are real people; and so are Ute, Francesca and the prostitutes the faces of which we don’t get to see. And as we start to realize about this, partially tricked by the score, which gives the piece a fiction texture, we let this bunch of human beings takes us in an emotional roller coaster that, as life, is tender, bitter, beautiful and sad.
No moral judgments are conjugated, there is no will to embrace melodrama whatsoever and the camera just works as the eyes of a fourth friend: us. At whom Enea glances and smiles at every now and them.
The Special Need is so real that it makes you smile and grieve equally. It’s no Cinéma-Vérité, no Dogme 95 and no Italian Neorealism, but still doesn’t feel right to place it under the documentary category. The Special Need is the story of Enea. And it’s a very beautiful one.