Mid-August Lunch is proof positive that the simplest of stories, told in the simplest of ways, without much of any kind of hoopla whatsoever, can make for a beautiful film. It is also proof of the versatility of writer/director Gianni Di Gregorio , who was the scenarist for Matteo Garrone's virtual opposite guttural and hedonistic mob movie Gomorrah (Garrone also acts as producer for Di Gregorio's directorial debut!?) and now turns around and directs the altogether pleasant little comedy Mid-August Lunch.
Now I do have my sentimental moments, that is for sure, but overall I suppose I am quite the jaded critic, and therefore I quite expected to walk out of this little film (it's a mere 75 minutes long) with either a saccharine overload or the need to be awakened after drifting off from boredom. I hyperbolate of course, but you get the gist of what I am saying. This was not a film I expected to get much out of other than the pure joy of hearing Italian being spoken on screen (a thing that helps place the cinema of Italia above all others in my esteem when all is said and done). What I got instead was a gorgeous and quite sumptuous film. A quaint (but not in the bad way) film full of more life than one would ever guess from such a short and seemingly simple film. Deceivingly simple that is.
What goes on beneath the surface of Di Gregorio's film is the hidden heartbeat of the events transpiring up on the screen. The story of a man who takes care of his elderly mother, Mid-August Lunch lopes along as we see this same man have to take in his landlord's mother and aunt for a few days, lest he be thrown out of home and hearth for being so behind in his rent, as well as adding his doctor's mother to the fray just for kicks. The trailer asks if this man can survive taking care of four outspoken old ladies for the weekend without going out of his mind. This question makes the film seem like farce, but it is not that at all. It is something much more, even when it seems so slight at first look.
And granted, it is a bit on the slight side (nothing much happens in a film such as Wendy and Lucy but it is still powerful) but the film's strongpoint is not its power so much as the fact that it is simple and sweet, without having time to become sappy (thankfully), yet quick-witted and quite funny in the fashion of a more tender (but less sardonic) throwback to the grand days of Italian Commedia d'arte, Mid-August Lunch is, simply put as well, a delightful film indeed - and I can say that with tender authority and without any sense of cheesy oversentimentality caught in my throat. [07/01/10]