Mid-August Lunch (U)
The mid-August holiday of Ferragosto is the most celebrated in Italy after Christmas, Easter and New Year. Originally a religious holiday to celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, it is still a day of festivity when the whole of Italy shuts down. Gianni (played by Gianni di Gregorio ) is a man in his fifties, living in a shabby flat in Rome with his elderly mother, whose care is his full-time occupation. His main forms of relaxation are smoking, drinking and cooking, often at the same time! They have little money and are gradually sinking further into debt as they fall into arrears with the service charges on their flat and other living expenses.
On the eve of the holiday, the building’s administrator makes him an offer he can’t refuse: would Gianni take care of his own elderly mother over the holiday in return for waiving the fees Gianni owes? Gianni eventually finds himself looking after not one, but four, elderly and lonely women. As di Gregorio said in the press briefing, “I played the leading role because when we were preparing the film, while I was explaining to the crew that we needed to find a middle-aged man, more or less an alcoholic, who had lived for years with his mother, I realised that all eyes were turned to me.” Thus begins a gentle and perceptive comedy about growing old.
Philip French, who presented the Satyajit Ray Award, said in The Observer, “It’s a wonderfully patient, delicately observed film; warm, generous, never for a moment sentimental or patronising, never exploiting dottiness and eccentricity. The performances of the old ladies [some of whom are not professional actors] are pitch-perfect and by the end, Di Gregorio’s casting of himself as Gianni seems both essential and inevitable. The final credits are accompanied by what looks like home movie footage of an improvised dance and, thinking about it afterwards, one can’t be sure whether this is the host dancing with his mother and their guests or the director celebrating with his cast at a wrap party.”
Gianni di Gregorio, writer, director and principal actor, won the Satyajit Ray Award in 2008, a prize given to the best first film “which best captures the artistry expressed in Ray’s own vision”. Previously, di Gregorio had been working mainly as a writer and then assistant director. Up to this film, he was probably best known in the UK for his share in the award-winning screenplay of Gomorrah (2008), a gritty, bleak look at organised crime in Naples.
Cast: Gianni di Gregorio
Gianni di Gregorio | Italy | 2008 | 79 minutes | U
Weighted vote 91.8%