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Made In Italy – James D’Arcy’s directorial debut is all filler, not enough villains

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Made in Italy (2021)

Dir: James D’Arcy, Running Time: 1 Hour 34 Minutes, Availability: Amazon Prime Video

As far as cyrupy, sugary, family themed cry a lot and hug dramas go, Made in Italy is pretty much paint by numbers. The film follows Jack and his estranged father Robert, played by Micheal Richardson and his real life father Liam Neeson, as they rediscover their familial bond whilst trying to rebuild their Italian villa to sell so that Jack can keep his art gallery. Much like the utterly painful Eat Pray Love, the film follows people to whom problems are like fleas – irritating, but in the grand scheme of things, very small. But whereas Eat Pray Love made viewers want to burn their DVDs and never go abroad again, Made in Italy is actually quite well told, meaningful and warm.

Made In Italy. c. Courtesy of Amazon

To begin, here’s the good: It looks gorgeous. The views from said Tuscany villa are staggeringly beautiful, and when Neeson describes the perfect placement and arrangement of the trees and skyline it’s like visual poetry. Whereas so many films from British directors like to scoff at foreign countries and make the butt of the joke “Look how different this country is”, DArcy’s debut feature showcases the actual romanticised beauty of a country that is more than just a holiday destination. I can almost imagine from any other director this film being retitled “When in Rome” and including an extended sequence where they go sightseeing and someone’s trousers fall down with a slide-whistle sound effect, but here it is respectful and peaceful in the type of way that few films can successfully pull off.

The father son relationship is at the heart of the movie and the film wants it to wholly be about them getting over their uncovered past grief in order to bond whilst doing up their villa, but the key problem here is a total lack of focus. The idea of “Selling the villa to buy an art gallery” is simply preposterous and a dreadful set up to a film that realistically needed very little prodding to get going. There are many ways to reunite family in movies, look no further than the superb “The Meyerowitz Stories” for a prime example, but buying art galleries is one of the worst and most uninspired versions of a very standard story. Give Neeson a heart attack or something (in the film, of course), anything but an art gallery sub-plot. Its barely even related to the overarching plot or character development, simply serving as a MacGuffin to drive the characters towards doing anything, when the real film is hidden under the surface in complex character studies that work when they’re given time to flourish.

There is a love story hidden somewhere in here, but its not that great. The reason is simple: despite all the best intentions and talent involved, Micheal Richardson is the son of an actor and not, himself, an actor. Given time he could be Olivier, but right now he can’t hold the weight of a story like this. Some line deliveries are like watching a first year student film in a Sixth Form media course, something I’m allowed to say as I made many of them. Neeson carries the rest of the movie quite nicely, but Richardson struggles to make any impact in his leading man status. His love interest, played solidly (despite some trite dialogue) by Valeria Billelo is just as entirely bereft of personality or intrigue as he is.

In the end, with warts and all, I found the entire thing quite nice. It wasnt life affirming, nor even memorable, but with a glass of wine, a couple of slices of cheese and a cosy night in it’s a decent little flick. And as for a travel documentary about how gorgeous Italy is? It’s a winner in my books. What a shame the plot gets in the way.

2.5/5 Stars

 

Written by: Joey Palmer

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