Made In Italy

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Made In Italy
"There's plenty of room here for an interesting story. Unfortunately, first time writer/director James D'Arcy has no interest in developing one."

Meet Jack (Micheál Richardson). He wants to work in the arts, but in the absence of talent, he's had to build what career he can around putting on loss-making exhibitions in his girlfriend's art gallery. Now that they're splitting up, she wants to bring this arrangement to a close and sell the venue. Presumably this will be a problem for a lot of actual artists, but we don't meet them or learn about why their work matters. All we get is Jack's colossal sulk. It isn't fair, he complains. Won't she please, please give him a bit of time to come up with the money so he can buy it himself? Though unconvinced by this prospect, she agrees. So now he has to make money fast. How can he do this? His first thought is to find something of his dad's that he can sell.

Fortunately, there is such a thing: the run-down farmhouse in Tuscany where he grew up. Less fortunately, from his perspective, getting permission to sell it and use the proceeds requires agreeing to spend time with his father (played by Richardson's real life father, Liam Neeson, who previously acted alongside him in Cold Pursuit). As spiky estate agent Kate (Lindsay Duncan) points out, the house will need to be renovated before it can be sold; they will need to work together to achieve that. They've hardly spoken since the death of Jack's Italian mother and there's a lot of buried resentment they will need to tackle alongside the roof repairs and replastering.

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With Jack deeply lacking in self awareness and his father still struggling to deal with grief, as well as the various frustrations surrounding his own artistic career, there's plenty of room here for an interesting story. Unfortunately, first time writer/director James D'Arcy has no interest in developing one. Instead he takes the easy route, trying to draw in fans of TV renovation programmes and those who have fantasised about investing in the undervalued Tuscan housing market with lots of dreamy shots of sunlight slanting through archways and rolling vineyard views. Jack gets a lightweight romance with local trattoria owner Natalia (Valeria Bilello) - every Italian we meet is there to serve the tourist community, as if D'Arcy can't imagine them having a society of their own - and our heroes gradually discover how much they have in common before falling out again and confronting the past in an ending so twee that Disney would be embarrassed to use it.

The film has its moments. There's some nice production design which strives to inject character into the film's tourist brochure vibe. Every now and again Neeson slips up and reminds us what he's capable of, but most of the way through he does his best to fade into the background and give his son opportunities which the younger man repeatedly fails to take. Duncan is a treat, providing pretty much all of the com that this rom so badly needs. Bilello sleepwalks through it all as if she'd rather be anywhere else.

With its title showcasing its only real asset, this flaccid little film would have been better if it had set aside the drama and just let us watch the paint dry.

Reviewed on: 15 Jan 2021
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Made In Italy packshot
A father and son renovate an Italian property together.

Director: James D'Arcy

Writer: James D'Arcy

Starring: Micheál Richardson, Liam Neeson, Valeria Bilello, Lindsay Duncan

Year: 2020

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, Italy

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