Director: James D'Arcy
Cast: Liam Neeson, Valeria Bilello, Micheál Richardson, Lindsay Duncan
Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 24 September 2020
Synopsis: Made in Italy is a heart-warming comedy set in glorious Tuscany about bohemian London artist Robert (Neeson) who returns to Italy with his estranged son Jack (Richardson) 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. As Robert and Jack painstakingly restore the villa to its previous glory, they also start to mend their relationship. The future may now look quite different and surprise them both.
While he is not busy kicking butt, Liam Neeson is trying to connect with his estranged son in this father-son dramedy which is directed by actor James D’Arcy (Dunkirk). As an added bonus, his on-screen son, Jack is played by Neeson’s real-life son, Micheál Richardson.
Are two Neesons better than one in the end?
Neeson exchanged a pistol for a paintbrush in Made In Italy, playing an artist, Robert who is dragged along a cross-country trip by his son to beautiful Tuscan to sell away their old Italian countryside home which Robert inherited from his late wife. Jack desperately needs the money to buy over the art gallery from his soon-to-be ex-wife. But due to decades of negligence, the house is in need of a facelift before the estate agent, Kate (Lindsay Duncan) could sell it off at a higher price.
On top of a great amount of DIY renovating work and a weasel to get rid of, Robert still has to confront a heart-breaking past in which he has been fearfully failed to embrace and a son he has never been present after the tragic death of his wife. Made In Italy is an unapologetically emotional story that is out to tug at your heartstrings. It’s also a story that deals with grief, pain and a hidden past that remains unaddressed by the people involved. In this case, Robert Foster who escaped to his art instead of facing the future with his then young son.
It’s a heartfelt movie that took a while to get started and moving. Instead of focusing solely on the traumatic relationship between Robert and Jack, the flick takes a detour to the town’s restaurant where Jack meets and later on, captivated by a divorced lady, Natalia (Valeria Bilello) and her love for her daughter. And you probably knows where this is heading to. And don’t forget the lush Tuscany sun, some wine and risotto, an old Italian movie, typical clichés of a shot in Italy movie.
Made In Italy of course is a beautiful shot movie. It’s easy on the eyes and the team up of the two Neesons makes it a mesmerising watch despite the all too predictable plotting. It’s not that Neeson and son isn’t trying. There’s one heartbreaking scene towards the end of the movie that justifies the admission ticket. But apparently, we need more of that consider that the gist of the movie mirrors the life of Neeson and his son. For the uninitiated, Neeson lost his wife in a skiing incident back in 2009.
This is potentially a powerful movie marred by some light-hearted jokes and familiar plottings. For those who don’t mind a so-so sappy movie, Made In Italy comes recommended before Liam Neeson resumes his set of special skills. And I’m not talking about his paintings.
(Plot too predictable though intentions are good)
Review by Linus Tee