Sunday, August 2, 2020

Movie with Abe: Made in Italy

Made in Italy
Directed by James D’Arcy
Released August 7, 2020 (VOD)

Children often perceive the world to be boundless, which can make certain events and places feel infinitely grander and more impactful than they objectively are. They assign significance and meaning to formative moments that, when reflected back upon or revisited, may hardly seem so influential. There’s also an element of time that causes places and people to age, rarely still in the condition they once were when someone goes back to somewhere special. What something or someone meant to an adult may not be diminished even if confronting it at a later point in life adds entirely new clarifying context.

Jack (Micheál Richardson) is desperate to retain his job as director of an art gallery owned by his wife’s family after she serves him with divorce papers, and needs cash quick to buy it before she sells it to someone else. He travels with his father, Robert (Liam Neeson), to the Tuscany country house that belonged to his late mother. Finding it in terrible condition, Jack sets out to make a sale, forging a friendship with a local restaurateur, Natalia (Valeria Bilello), who helps to show him the delights of living far from the city. The experience also opens his eyes to who his distant father really is and what’s underneath the laissez-faire attitude that has shaped his parenting style.

Neither son nor father comes off as the most socially apt individual, with Jack clinging to a relationship that is clearly no longer viable and Robert paying so little attention to his one-night stands that he doesn’t even remember their names. Neither is looking to connect with the other, and Jack maintains the illusion that his marriage is perfectly healthy as he pushes his father to put some effort into updating a property whose charm isn’t nearly as present as Robert maintains. The renovation process is just as much about how they relate to each other as it is about the home they’re trying to sell.

What makes this film a delight is the casting of well-known actor Neeson’s real-life son, Richardson, in one of his first major film roles. The two do a superb job of making their characters seem like they have reasons to resent each other, and they’re well-supported by Bilello, who makes Natalia a worthwhile part of the story when she might otherwise not have been. This film marks the feature directorial debut of actor James D’Arcy, known for “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” and “Broadchurch,” who also serves as screenwriter. While its plot may not be wholly original or groundbreaking, the film as a whole is sincerely watchable as light entertainment mixed in with some decent drama.


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