Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio. Starring Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti, Grazia Cesarini Sforza, Luigi Marchetti, Maria Calì. (2008, NR, 75 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., June 4, 2010
Di Gregorio co-wrote Gomorrah, a shuddering Mafia exposé that makes a person want to look away from all the awfulness onscreen. Mid-August Lunch, the 60-year-old's directorial debut, achieves rather the opposite effect; so cozy and lulling and slight is it, I could hardly keep my eyes open. That is not quite the disparagement it sounds like; Mid-August Lunch's more-or-less 24-hour cycle takes place around the Ferragosto holiday on Aug. 15, when it is hot and bright and the Roman people have either emptied the city or retired indoors for a nice long nap. Middle-aged bachelor Gianni (played genially by the director) plans on a quiet holiday with his 97-year-old mother (played by De Franciscis), with whom he lives. In a smartly underplayed preface, Gregorio establishes the mother-son dynamic: loving but exhausting. Her demands, while not immoderate, are relentless, and Gianni is run ragged as her full-time caretaker. Now imagine that, the film supposes, with considerable mirth, times four: Partly through accident, partly through design, Gianni takes in three more senior-aged women for the Ferragosto holiday, Italian mamas dumped by adult children who want to go play. The quartet of senior women are, for the director, mostly a means to an end, their neediness and snipping and restricted diets spinning Gianni to and fro. Di Gregorio has not unreasonably given himself the lead: His hero is likable but one-note, and that note can be found in the bottom of a bottle of vino. But these women! These women are marvelous, with ancient, creased faces and the kind of admirable fuck-all attitude that comes with age. I couldn't take my eyes off them.