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MID-AUGUST LUNCH

Director: GIANNI DI GREGORIO

ITALY • 2008 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DIGITAL • 75 MIN.


A GAGGLE OF OLD LADIES, A HENPECKED SON, A TUMBLEDOWN ROMAN APARTMENT: IT MAY NOT SOUND LIKE MUCH, BUT FROM THESE UNLIKELY INGREDIENTS, WRITER-DIRECTOR-PERFORMER GIANNI DI GREGORIO HAS CREATED A FILM OF SPIKY WIT, TRUTHFUL OBSERVATION AND BEGUILING CHARM.

Let’s just say that Di Gregorio knows whereof he speaks, since he lived with his widowed mother for many years, was behind on the rent on their apartment, and was asked by the building manager to look after the latter’s elderly mum as well over the mid-August holiday. In real life, he refused the approach, but here on celluloid he follows what might have happened, more or less playing himself as events spiral almost out of control.

All of which explains how this seriocomic vignette feels so absolutely authentic throughout. Valeria De Franciscis, who plays the discreetly vicious dragon-lady matriarch, like the other female cast members, hadn’t acted before, yet she’s in her element here. We’ve all known sweet old dears with the iron will of a totalitarian dictator, and while Di Gregorio extracts wry comedy from the son’s mounting panic (boy, does he really need that fortifying glass of Chablis), he’s also attuned to the pathos and frustrations of old age. In the course of the compact running time, we learn to appreciate that a little kindness goes a long way when much of your life is spent as an apparent inconvenience to a long-serving carer. One of the film year’s most unexpected surprises, this little gem is suffused with more wisdom and humanity than all the summer blockbusters added together. — Trevor Johnston.

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