Eye For Film >> Movies >> Mid-August Lunch (2008) Film Review
On the 15th of August, in Italy, the festival of Ferragosto is held. In Catholic tradition it celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, raised bodily into Heaven; in older, Pagan traditions it celebrated the goddess Diana and the ripening of crops. But poor Gianni doesn't have much to celebrate. His life as a carer is repetitive and often exhausting, for all that he loves his ageing mother. What's more, because he can't go out to work, they're struggling to make ends meet and are badly behind with the rent and bills. Then Gianni's landlord makes him an offer he can't refuse.
If Gianni is spending his time in the house looking after one old lady, why not look after another? Doing so could make his debts go away, and it would only be for a couple of days, to give the landlord the chance to get away with his family. The trouble is, once word gets out that Gianni has accepted this offer, two other elderly women are also placed in his care, and he really has his work cut out for him coping with their needs, their demands and their whims. But as the holiday goes on, though he's increasingly exhausted, Gianni finds an unexpected pleasure in being party to the friendship developing between the women, and in seeing his quiet, unhappy home suddenly sparkling with life.
Mid-August Lunch does an impressive job of understanding and illustrating the stresses and strains of being a full-time carer - so much so that at times it can be grim viewing. Although we see events from Gianni's perspective, an astute script also makes clear the frustrations of the women who hate to be dependent and are full of conflicting emotions, knowing they can only ask for so much but needing so much more in order to live their lives with dignity and have a little fun.
Many of their pleasures come from sharing their memories, and from making themselves useful where they are still able, such as with the preparation of food. There is a lot of cooking in this film. Do not watch it on an empty stomach, or you'll be running to the nearest Italian restaurant as soon as the credits roll. Food is presented as something that can unite people across generations, like sunshine and dancing and the many bottles of wine we also see consumed. These are aspects of a shared culture with ancient roots.
A modest venture which never tries to take on too much, Mid-August Lunch is film which some viewers will find frustratingly slow, and it isn't really strong enough, either in visuals, dialogue or music, to carry this off. However, as an insight into a world too often ignored, it's a valuable piece of filmmaking, and its message comes across loud and clear.Reviewed on: 10 Apr 2009