made in italy
director: James D'Arcy (debut)
starring: liam neeson, micheal richardson, valeria bilello and lindsay duncan
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A London artist and his estranged son try to mend their relationship as they work together to repair a dilapidated house in Italy.
It's easy to forget that before Taken and all the other Taken like films he has made and continues to make that Liam Neeson is more than just an action star. In Made in Italy we see all of Neeson’s acting chops on display in this heartwarming and at times hilarious exploration of a father and son relationship in the midst of deep grief.
London artist Robert returns to Italy with his estranged son Jack to make a quick sale of the house they inherited from his late wife. Neither expects to find the once beautiful villa in such a state of disrepair.
Renovations go badly, and father and son find themselves at odds – not for the first time. Robert’s comical lack of DIY experience leads him to seek help from some colourful locals, but for Jack, the state of the house seems to mirror his search for memories of happier times with his mother. Then Jack falls for Natalia, a vivacious young Italian chef, who restores both body and soul with delights from her local trattoria - until the pair find their developing relationship in jeopardy from Natalia’s jealous and threatening ex-husband.
Chemistry is one of the key components of any film. In Made in Italy Neeson and Richardson have a clear advantage in that they are father and son in real life. But that’s not where the art imitating life ends. Liam’s wife, and Micheal’s mother, passed away tragically over a decade ago.
And the real relationship, trauma and grief is clearly in the mix here. There is a real truth, an authenticity to not only the story but also in Neeson and Richardson's performances. Made in Italy plumbs the depths of fractured relationships, grief and heartache in such a poignant and beautiful way that never feels macabre but completely therapeutic.
But Made in Italy isn’t a sad, depressing drama. There are also really funny moments involving a weasel and an estate agent as well as being set in the glorious, romantic and just downright gorgeous rolling hills of Tuscany. Not being able to travel much this year, the Tuscan backdrop is more than worth the ticket price alone for a bit of fantasised European travel.
Made in Italy is a wonderful exploration of a fractured father and son relationship in light of their shared grief, but is also filled with laughter, joy and a much needed escape to the rolling hills of Tuscany.