Current Issue #488

Film Review:
Made In Italy

Prolific-actor-turned writer/director James D’Arcy’s feature début is a distinctly awkward drama with an almost roman a clef aspect that feels weird, strained and uncomfortable.

Some audiences might enjoy watching Liam Neeson onscreen alongside his real-life son Micheál Richardson, and initially it is nice to see Liam doing any role where he isn’t graphically shooting up oodles of extras, but then the unease takes over, and there are times here when it’s like you’re watching a botched family therapy session.

Mopey Jack (Micheál) runs a London art gallery, and before the film has even properly begun, he’s realised that he’s liable to lose everything because his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s family is selling the place. He hits upon the notion of making fast cash by finally putting the long-empty Tuscan villa that once belonged to his late mother on the market, but for this to happen, he must seek the assistance of his creatively-blocked artist Dad Robert (Liam), whose grumpiness and bleariness are pure cliché.

Jack and Robert arrive in Tuscany after a long journey that demonstrates that Liam is a considerably better actor than his son, and they set about less than impressing Kate (Lindsay Duncan), a snarky real estate agent horrified at the rundown state of the house. Jack also quickly and conveniently runs into the divorced (and therefore single) Natalia (Valeria Bilello), who owns a popular local restaurant and pretty much seduces him with risotto.

However, this is mostly about the semi-estranged father and son finally coming to terms with the death of the wife/mother, and it’s here that everything gets particularly dicey because, in actuality, Natasha Richardson (Liam’s missus, Micheál’s Mum and Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter too), tragically died in a skiing accident in 2009, which means that scenes where Robert and Jack wail in longtime-coming grief have an embarrassing, even creepy edge.

And please, how can any director shoot any movie in Montalcino, Tuscany, and make the countryside look so drab? Or does it just look flat and dull because the characters inhabiting it are such unconvincing stereotypes?

Mamma mia indeed.

Reviewer Rating

Made In Italy (M) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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