Movie Review: Made In Italy (2020)

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For Jack (Micheál Richardson), getting divorced means more than just changing residences. Having managed the swanky London art gallery owned by his in-laws for years, Jack is in for a rude awakening when his ex-wife-to-be Ruth (Yolanda Kettle) informs him that not only will he be out of a job as soon as the ink on the divorce decree dries but the art gallery he knows and loves is going on the market for sale.

Begging Ruth not to sell the gallery out from under him, Jack embarks on a quest to seek out the funds he needs to purchase the place from his estranged father Robert (Liam Neeson). Whereas Jack's a level-headed optimist, his carefree painter father's head is always the clouds. And their differences are magnified as they travel to the village of Monticello Amiata in the Grosseto province of Tuscany, Italy to check on and sell the palazzo they'd inherited from Jack's mother and Robert's late wife, Raffaella (Helena Antonio). Arriving in the dead of night, they discover not the pristine villa that Jack barely remembers from his youth but the ornate Tuscan equivalent of a falling down shack, complete with no electricity, and a weasel in the bathroom.
An obvious metaphor for the men's need to repair their relationship and deal with their repressed grief over the tragic loss of Raffaella when Jack was a young boy, as the two get to work fixing up the villa with the help of some locals, they begin to break down their own walls as well.

Meeting cute with the lovely chef and trattoria owner Natalia (Valeria Bilello), Jack strikes up a friendship with romantic potential that much like the villa, also pays off on his need to face the past, since she's a loving mother of a daughter who's only slightly older than Jack was when he lost his mom.

Although inevitably, some will call this the male version of the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun” from director Audrey Wells (just like they did when Russell Crowe fixed up a relative's residence in France in the 2006 Ridley Scott movie “A Good Year”), this one hits a bit harder than the rest from an emotional standpoint overall.
Located roughly ninety-five minutes away from the gorgeous Villa Laura just outside the walls of Cortona in Tuscany where Diane Lane impulsively moved in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” the vibrant scenic views of Monticello Amiata in “Made in Italy” are undeniably eye-catching.

Yet more than just a romantic travelogue, since the tragedy at the core of “Italy” closely resembles the sudden shocking loss of Liam Neeson's wife and his onscreen (and offscreen) son Micheál Richardson's mother Natasha Richardson, when the two gifted actors angrily confront one another over a loved one's death and how to grieve, it cuts extremely close to the bone. And while Neeson and Richardson have revealed that they felt like sublimating and addressing their pain through art was cathartic, it's nonetheless heartbreaking to watch.

This plot point aside, however, writer-director James D'Arcy's film remains an otherwise pleasant, airy, lighthearted, perfect for the dog days of summer trifle, just like “Tuscan Sun” and “A Good Year.” Undeniably predictable, of course, it still warms the heart just like a bowl of risotto made with love.
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