by M. Faust
Veteran screenwriter Italian Gianni Di Gregorio (most recently of the hit Gomorrah) based this comedy on an incident in his own life. A decade ago, behind on the rent for the apartment he shared with his elderly mother, he was offered a deal by the building manager: The debt’s erased if he watched the manager’s mother during the August holiday break. Di Gregorio turned the offer down, but used it as the basis for this screenplay which he also directed and stars in. The movie’s Gianni, middle-aged and a borderline alcoholic, spends his days caring for his 93-yaer-old mother. For the Ferragosto holiday, he finds himself coerced into caring for three other old ladies, the mother of his doctor and the mother and aunt of his landlord.
One sits down to a movie like this with a bit of trepidation. Movies tend to use the elderly either for bathos or cruel humor and little else. Mid-August Lunch avoids these traps. While Gianni finds his charges demanding and occasionally exasperating, they are never the object of jokes. All are played by non-actors (an aunt, a family friend, and two women recruited from a local retirement home), and the film was built around their characters and interactions. But if the film is laudable for what it doesn’t do, it is still awfully slight, feeling like a short padded out to the minimal requirements (72 minutes) for a feature release. Di Gregorio has spoken of how his first time actresses so enjoyed what they were doing that the crew had trouble keeping up with them; if so, more’s the pity that he didn’t spend more time letting them explore their characters.
Watch the trailer for Mid-August Lunch
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