“ Genre: Comedy / Universal, suitable for all / Director: Gianni di Gregorio / Actors: Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti, Maria Cali, Grazia Cesarini Sforza, Alfonso Santagata ... / DVD released 2009-12-07 at Artificial Eye / Features of the DVD: PAL „
Another Christmas has just gone by and made me the recipient of another few world cinema films on DVD. My parents got me a film that they had seen at the cinema a few months previously and adored, Sarah's Key, as well as one that they had bought for me on reputation alone. That one was Mid-August Lunch, directed by Gianni di Gregorio, whose newest film (The Salt of Life) my mam had heard very positive things about. With numerous awards from all over the world, Mid-August Lunch certainly did come very highly recommended, and I do remember fancying it when it was on BBC iPlayer briefly a few months ago. After having spent the past few nights watching a series that I got for my parents for Christmas, we sat down again last night to watch their present to me.
== Mid-August Lunch or Pranzo di Ferragosto ==
Gianni (Gianni di Gregorio) is a middle-aged man who lives with his aging, and rather terrifying looking, widowed mother. Despite being in her nineties, she is in reasonably good health but Gianni still looks after her as a good dutiful son should. He is less adept at taking care of the finances, however, and one day the condominium administrator comes by to talk to Gianni about his debts and the anger he has inspired in the rest of the building. The administrator offers a solution, however, in the form of writing off some of his debts, if Gianni will allow the administrator's mother to stay with him for a few days over the August holiday. Gianni accepts, and he and his mother open up their house to another old woman and end up with more than they expected.
== What I Thought ==
This film was a lot different to what I expected of it. At sixty-six minutes long, this is a very short film and it is true that it is not heavy in the way of plot, but what it lacks in length it certainly makes up for in character and charm. This film felt very real and had a wonderful atmosphere, and on watching the interviews with the director, it transpires that this film was loosely based on a situation in his own life. This is probably one of the main reasons why this film feels so authentic and unmistakeably Italian, although it's low budget and relative simplicity also add to this film's charming atmosphere.
In such a small film, we don't get to know the characters massively well, but it is clear that the elderly women are all very interesting and strong characters. À la Outnumbered, there was no fixed script and the women (none of whom were professional actresses) were encouraged to develop their own dialogue naturally within the constraints of the plot of the story. Conversations therefore don't feel forced or overly theatrical and are much more natural and spontaneous, which adds more interest and realness to what, on the face of it, is only small talk and chat of little consequence. The development of the relationship between Gianni and the old women and between the women themselves, who are shown to have been rather lonely up to now, despite being well looked after by their sons, is very interesting to watch and makes up the main focus of the film. The character of Gianni's mother, who has curled blonde hair and wears green eye shadow despite being in her nineties, was a brilliant addition to this film as she depicts an apparently vain old woman who has not allowed herself to age gracefully. The other old women are different still, but each has her own rebellions and they all are prone to selfishness as well as showing a desire for the company of others.
== Conclusion ==
I thought that this was a really lovely film with a wonderful sense of humour and simple charm. I felt that it ended wonderfully and my only slight disappointment was that it did not last longer than it did. It's certainly not action-packed but it is a lovely and very enjoyable film. Being an Italian film, it is in Italian with English subtitles, and from my fairly basic knowledge of Italian it's clear that the subtitles were well done and accurately conveyed the meaning of what the characters were saying. At only £4.29 for the DVD, which contains the film and a couple of interviews with the director and main star, Gianni di Gregorio, this film is a bargain despite its short length. It has given me high hopes for other films by this director and I plan to watch 'Salt of Life' soon based on the high quality of 'Mid-August Lunch'.