With the promise of wiping a few bills off his slate, middle-aged Gianni (Di Gregorio) agrees to let his building administrator's mother, Marina (Cacciotti), stay in his cramped Roman apartment for two days while Luigi, the administrator, seeks treatment for his skin condition (but he's really bunking off with his young girlfriend). The place barely fits Gianni and his mother (De Franciscis), let alone Marina - and Luigi's aunt Maria (Calli), whom Luigi surprises Gianni with when he's dropping off his mother. Gloom. To make matters worse, Gianni's doctor asks him for a favour - can he look after his mother, Grazia (Grazia Cesarini Sforza), while he's on night shift? Damn. It's a tight squeeze but doormat Gianni does his best to juggle all his guests and their prescriptions.
It's a simple story and Di Gregario knows that to stretch his plot beyond the slim 75 minutes running time would be ruinous. He finds humour in the most unlikely places - at first the women don't get along, and the one TV they have between them keeps switching rooms; Marina slips out in the night for a few drinks and then gets amorous with a protesting Gianni on the sofa; and the lactose intolerant Grazia insists on trying the macaroni casserole. In casting non-actors, the director also ensures that natural edge he's desperately strives for - not that desperation is obvious in the film; the dialogue and action nicely flows without any impediment or force. All the ladies are given room to be themselves and say lines how they would normally say them. As a result, Mid-August Lunch comes across more like a docu-drama than a film. Enjoyable.
Review by Gavin Burke | 09:00 | Friday 14th August 2009 | Movie Review
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