The Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore is best known for the overrated "Cinema Paradiso," with its too-cute bambino and its overweening ardor for the magic of movies. "The Unknown Woman" is tonally quite different from that weepie, although Tornatore is no better at darkness than sunniness.
Irena (Ksenia Rappoport), an Eastern European emigrant with a sordid and brutal past that we gradually become aware of, insinuates herself into the life of a northern Italian couple with a young child. She has an emotional void to fill and boy, does she fill it.
Rappoport is a powerhouse performer but the movie is an unstable concoction of political melodrama, film noir, and weepie. Grade: C+. (Not rated.)