If you love Italy (Rome in particular) you’ll love this film. It’s a gentle, tragic and funny story of Gianni, a fifty-year-old man who after having been made redundant is being trampled on by all the women around him. His wife sleeps in a separate bedroom but is each morning brought coffee on a tray by Gianni. His mother (absolutely brilliantly acted by Valeria De Franciscis) calls him incessantly, always demanding attention, faking illness and generally being a strain on his resources, both mental and financial, yet has an observant mind and a sharp tongue, ‘You retire at fifty now?’
Gianni’s daughter is sweet but equally oblivious to her father’s mounting unhappiness, while his beautiful young neighbour flirts with him unashamedly in order to receive dog-walking favours.
What Gianni really would like is a good lover, but in spite of seeing amorous goings-on all around him, Gianni just doesn’t seem to be able to get some for himself, not even with the help of his old lawyer friend, Alfonso, nor his daughter’s layabout boyfriend, Michelangelo. (What a name!)
There’s little plot, and I would have wanted to see some development in Gianni’s life, rather than a number of consequential amusing and rather sad scenes. Daughter, who’s about to embark on her own Italian odyssey soon, thought the main character didn’t really go on much of a journey. The Englishman said it was as if we’d just spent a week with an Italian family; it was as if we’d been on a holiday to Rome again. (I wish)
But just like spending time in Italy, the film brought home to me how differently we here in England (or Northern Europe) regard love and marriage. Although I felt sorry for the ageing, unloved Gianni, I couldn’t exercise too much sympathy for an Italian man who seemed to think having a lover was his right, not something morally wrong.
But then I know I take these things far too seriously. ‘It’s only moving pictures,’ as my old grandfather used to say when my grandmother was in tears over some TV series or other.