At first glance,the 2008 Pranzo di Ferragosto – Mid-August Lunch, seems too minor to consider. It’s what I would call a “slice of life” movies, a few days in the life of a middle-aged guy and his mother. But if it is so inconsequential, so slight, why do I think about it so much? Why did my husband want to watch it a second time? Why does everyone I recommend it to rave about it? The only conclusion that I come to is that it’s a great movie.
The movie’s writer, director, and star is Gianni Di Gregorio, who shares a writing credit for “Gomorrah“, one of the best Italian movies in the last few years. Di Gregorio plays “Gianni”, in what he says is a partially autobiographical role, a single, middle-aged, only child living with his quintessential Italian “Mamma”. She was beautiful and aristocratic in her day, but now, at 92, she plasters on the lipstick to a face that has been in the sun way too much and she pretends that she still has money. It was filmed in Di Gregorio’s Roman apartment and neighborhood, and one of the actresses is his aunt.
It’s Ferragosto in Rome, the August vacation when everybody heads for the beach and the city is very quiet. Gianni can’t go – he’s broke and besides, he can’t leave his mother. In the opening scenes of the movies, Gianni and his mother are wondering how to pay the bills when the condo manager comes up with a solution – let the manager’s mother stay with them while he goes on vacation and he’ll take care of Gianni’s bills.
You’d think that Gianni would jump at the chance to be debt free, but he balks saying that it “seems like a lot of trouble” and it takes some arm twisting to get him to agree. When the manager delivers his mom, he brings a bonus – his elderly aunt – and Gianni mournfully watches as the manager hops into his convertible with a beautiful woman on his arm on their way out of town.
Gianni has heart problems and this isn’t helping, so when there are chest pains and the doctor is called, surprise, the doctor, too, has a mother that needs a place to stay for the Ferragosto; the doctor is willing to pay…
Now Gianni’s apartment is a regular bed and breakfast for the elderly and the women are settling in, at once sweet and cranky, happy for the company and yet very set in their ways. Gianni spends his days refereeing their arguments, cooking their meals, and breaking for a glass of wine with his only friend that has stayed in town, a crusty old guy named Viking.
Di Gregorio said that it was really hard to get this movie made because nobody thought that anybody would want to see a movie about a bunch of old ladies – I guess you are going to have to take a leap of faith to listen to an old lady like me and watch a movie about old ladies, but trust me – this is a really good one. It’s charming and sweet, funny and smart. If this were a Hollywood movie it would have been nominated for an academy award.
Read what I wrote about it HERE.
Enjoy the trailer.