Something You Said Last Night


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Something You Said Last Night
"De Filippis understands the value of the small stuff." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Nothing distils the essence of family relationships like a holiday. Renata (Carmen Madonia) has been living independently for some time, but has been persuaded to join her parents and her younger sister Sienna (Paige Evans) for a week away at a lakeside resort. An older brother, Anthony, is staying at home, as is a doting grandmother who has sent a gift of $100 each for the sisters to enjoy themselves with. What Renata doesn’t want to admit is that she needs this. She lost her job some time ago and is flat broke, struggling to pay her rent. The spectre of having to move back in with the others looms large, making this feel less like a break than a trial run, and adding to the overall pressure which stems in part from her mother’s determination that everybody is going to have a good time.

The only one who really seems relaxed is the father, Guido (Joe Parro), who worries in a quiet sort of way and tries to encourage the others to communicate more directly. His easy going nature is itself taken as provocation by the mother, Mona (Ramona Milano), who rants at him whilst he sits on the couch, and complains about having to clean up all the time. He just leaves things lying around everywhere so she can’t tell what’s clean and what’s dirty, she complains to Renata, sticking a pair of his swimming trunks right in her face to ask her how she thinks they smell.

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It’s sunny at the resort – probably what they were hoping for, but still, Mona worries. She wants to buy her daughters hats. Renata says she doesn’t want one. Later she asks to borrow Siena’s. Siena then denies having agreed to this, and wants it back. Renata throws it at her. Siena calls her a psycho. Her parents try to calm things down by buying her one after all. She enjoys wearing it, but when a guy compliments her on it, she takes it off.

Renata habitually self-sabotages. She’s wary of getting close to people. Perhaps it’s because (like director Luis De Filippis) she’s trans. She has her guard up a lot, in a strange environment, not knowing how people might react to her, though she deals with harassment calmly when it happens. Perhaps it’s just her age and the stress she’s under. Notably, she never says ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ in situations where it would be normal to do so. This may be related in part to the awkwardness between her and Mona, who has a bit of a martyr complex relating to her. “It’s different with you,” Mona says of her tendency to worry, though one might question that, given that there’s also a distinct kind of awkwardness between her and Siena.

It’s a holiday, so Siena wants to go out, get drunk, flirt with local guys and resort staff. Mona understands this in theory but gets stressed out when Siena doesn’t text her. Perhaps reluctant to accept that her kids are getting older, that they will inevitably drift away, she says she doesn’t understand why they can’t all enjoy themselves together as a family – in tones which make it sound like a duty, and thereby make it impossible. She doesn’t understand why Siena wants to go out all the time. “I’m having fun!” declares Siena eventually, furiously.

Fury gives way in seconds to play. Fights between the sisters give way to laughter, silly games and the sharing of secrets, even after confidences have been broken. There is intense love in this family, despite all the sparring, despite the various ways in which they let each other down or take each other for granted. We see it in the ease with which they slide into familiar routines, their certainty of what they can expect from one another. There is little by way of big drama in a film full of acutely observed details. De Filippis understands the value of the small stuff.

Newcomer Madonia shines in a film full of assured performances. The chemistry between the actors sells it. Watching, one is immersed in the family’s world, made privy to its in-jokes; one finds oneself compelled to try and understand just as its members strive to make sense of each other. Their levels of self awareness vary, but somehow, all together, they understand exactly who they are.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2022
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Something You Said Last Night packshot
After being fired from her job, Ren, an aspiring writer and mid-twenty-something, accompanies her Canadian-Italian family on vacation.

Director: Luis De Filippis

Writer: Luis De Filippis

Starring: Carmen Madonia, Ramona Milano, Paige Evans, Joe Parro, Xxavier Woon-A-Tai, Augustus Oicle, Drew Catherine, Mark Winnick, Nate Colitto, Mark Soltermann, Anna Starnino, Lorcan DaSilva Déiseach, Jennifer Balen, Michelle Gidari, Carmelo Nelson

Year: 2022

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: Canada, Switzerland

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