Friday, June 24, 2011

Film Review: Mid-August Lunch

It would be hard to imagine a film more low-key than this one. Gianni, a middle-aged man, and his very elderly mother are having trouble paying the maintenance fees on their Roman condo. A condo rep suggests a solution: if Gianni takes in the rep's mother for the Ferragosto holiday, he, the rep, will forgive the fees. Gianni agrees. In short order Gianni is saddled with two more elderly mothers that friends want to ditch over the long weekend.

The action, such as it is, revolves around the old ladies getting to know each other, and Gianni having to cook for them and settle some petty squabbles. Nothing even close to dramatic happens, and the humour is very gentle, so that does that mean it's dull? Not at all. The director, Gianni Di Gregorio, who also plays the role of the son, knows that an observed life can be as pleasurable to watch as a dramatic one. Gregorio has a keen eye for details, letting his camera linger over simple things such as Gianni's meal preparations. In fact, the film's camerawork is excellent given that the main location is a none too spacious apartment.

The actors are all non-professional, which is all for the good, and Gregorio as Gianni seems to be channeling Marcello Mastroianni, or is it that all middle-aged Italian men channel Mastroianni? The only message in the film seems to be that no matter how old we are we all still crave the pleasures of good food and agreeable companions. Worth seeing, if only because it will give you a keen appetite for some Italian food.

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