MID AUGUST LUNCH
Gianni (Gianni Di Gregorio) is a late middle aged bachelor who has always lived with his doting mother. For Gianni, looking after his 90 year old mother is a full time job and there is no time to earn money to pay all the bills. Suddenly there is a shift in the daily routine, when Gianni finds himself looking after three other elderly women, whose families have gone away for the August 15 Ferragosto holiday. If he thought looking after one demanding woman was hard work, he now finds his load has more than quadrupled. Not only are his guests demanding, but they have strong opinions too.
Review by Louise Keller:
If you are lucky enough to live where this little gem of a film is being released, don't miss it. This enchanting film in which director and writer Gianni Di Gregorio also stars, offers a simple but mesmerising slice of life in suburban Rome in summer, where his protagonist Gianni finds himself at the mercy of the whims of four elderly women for the mid August Italian holiday. This kitchen sink drama is all about the characters and their relationships and we become fascinated by them all. Tempers fray, issues arise and the women become stubborn, impatient, demanding and refuse to comply with the expectations placed on them. It's a film overflowing with small pleasures and our encounters are to treasure.
Mid August Lunch begins with Gianni reading The Three Musketeers aloud to his opinionated 90 something mother (Valeria De Franciscis) who still carefully applies make-up and dresses elegantly. It is one of the rare scenes in which he is not drinking a glass of wine, but before long he heads to the local bottle shop to buy some tonic for Mama and have a glass of chilled Ribolla Gialla with a local standing outside the shop. He carries home a couple of bottles of Chablis, too. No money exchanges hands. He simply puts it on his tab.
We soon discover his whole life is on credit. As his mother's full time carer, Gianni is broke: there is not enough money for the rent, the groceries or to pay the electricity. Then his landlord Luigi (Alfonso Santagata) comes by ('We all have problems; I have dermatitis,') and the solution becomes clear. The overdue rent will be waived if Gianni will let Luigi's elderly mother Marina (Marina Cacciotti) stay overnight, so Luigi can get away. Our hearts sink with Gianni's when Marina arrives with her dotty sister Aunt Maria (Maria Calž) in tow. And when the local doctor Marcello (Marcello Ottolenghi) arrives to check Gianni's blood pressure (yes, there is a glass of wine by the bed), he drops another bombshell; he wants to bring his elderly, pill-taking, allergic-to-everything mother Grazia (Grazia Cesarini Sforza) to stay.
For guests who 'eat like birds', the women are a lot of work, with demands beyond Gianni's imagination. Remarkably, the elderly women have never acted before and Di Gregorio extracts wonderful, natural performances from them all. Nothing much happens, yet the lives of all the characters change.
If you saw the powerful and acclaimed drama Gomorrah, you may be surprised to know that Di Gregorio co-wrote the screenplay with other writers including director Matteo Garrone, the producer for this project. No two films could be more different.
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MID AUGUST LUNCH (PG)
Pranzo di ferragosto
CAST: Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti, Maria Calž, Grazia Cesarini Sforza, Alfonso Santagata, Luigi Marchetti
PRODUCER: Matteo Garrone
DIRECTOR: Gianni Di Gregorio
SCRIPT: Gianni Di Gregorio
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gian Enrico Bianchi
EDITOR: Marco Spoletini
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Daniele Cascella
RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Limited release (regional Australia): January 14, 2010; Sydney (Chauvel & Norton St): March 4, 2010