“Made in Italy” (2020)
Running Time: 93 minutes
Written and directed by: James D’Arcy
Featuring: Liam Neeson, Micheál Richardson, Valeria Bilello, and Lindsay Duncan
Robert: “Disappointment is an absolute certainty, everyone lets everyone down at some point, how you comeback from that, this is romance.”
Released recently on DVD is the comedy/drama “Made in Italy” (2020) which is a small change of pace for star Liam Neeson who has for the past two decades mostly been know as an action star which of course started with the excellent low budget thriller “Taken” (2008). This new movie has been written and directed by actor James D’Arcy who frames “Made in Italy” around an event that Neeson can identify with, that is the loss of his wife and all the repurcussions that come from that. One of the unique elements of this movie is that Neeson’s costar in this movie is Micheál Richardso who is his own son playing that part, it may seem on the surface that this movie is some kind of therapy for both but unfortunately while this movie is indeed like most European shot efforts visually appealing it is in fact a very inconsistent affair that suffers from a first time writer/director. The main issue is that the story has plot and narrative contrivances that distract from the main story, not only that, considering this is about a lost mother, the supporting female characters are little more than one-dimensional props to help move the story along.
The movie concerns Jack Foster who is getting divorced from his wife Ruth. Her family is selling the art gallery, where he works as a manager, which devastates Jack. He decides to buy the gallery by possibly selling the old Italian home he owns with his estranged father Robert, a famous artist. The house belonged to Jack’s mother and Robert’s wife, an Italian woman who died in a terrible car accident. Jack takes Robert with him to Italy. Jack tells Robert he needs the money to buy the gallery from Ruth’s parents. When they arrive, they find it is completely rundown. Kate, an estate agent, comes to survey the home. She tells them the house is in really bad condition, but if they fix the house, it could be worth more. From here there are various issues that must be overcome which are present in any number of movies, the thing that holds this entire movie together is the central performance by Neeson who proves why he has been a star for the past five decades.
There is no doubt that “Made in Italy” is not a perfect movie, it almost reeks of being a first attempt by an actor at something meaningful but all that is lost amongst its genre trappings and the need to put characters through needless obstacles to overcome. These are all traits that exist when a first time or inexperienced screenwriter has the need to tick boxes on a list that is titled ‘How to write a screenplay’. D’Arcy would have been better served if he had have used what he had in front of the camera, some obvious emotion from the true life events where the actors suffered a similar tragedy when Neeson’s wife and Richardson’s mother, Natasha Richardson, died in a skiing accident in 2009. “Made in Italy” could have been a watershed moment for a family that is intensely private, having not spoken about their own tragedy, it would have been amazing to see something true without artifice on screen.
In terms of performance it really is mostly a two hander between Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson who are obviously real life father and son which for me was a selling point if this movie. There is no surprise at all in regards how Neeson handles the material, he has no problem distinguishing reality from this movie so we get a performance however with his son Micheál Richardso we get a man who has not much experience and this shows onscreen which is a real shame, maybe either more work or more experience may have been key to more success.
“Made in Italy” is not inherently a bad movie but I feel like we have been there done this before such as in the much better movies “A Good Year” (2006) and “Under the Tuscan Sky” (2003) which not only had better straight forward narratives but were handled by better directors who could judge what was good plot wise and what needed to be left out. Still, if you’re stuck at home and in need of an escape (or even a quick cry), “Made in Italy” might work just fine.