Desperate to buy the art gallery that his ex-wife is selling, Jack Foster (Micheál Richardson) begrudgingly gets back in touch with his estranged father, Robert (Liam Neeson). They inherited a villa in Italy upon the death of Robert’s wife and Jack’s mother, so they fly to Tuscany to fix the place up before selling it. But the house is seriously run down and the two lads will have to work hard to mend the place, and their relationship.
The idea of having a father and son in real life play father and son in a movie probably looks good on paper (We’re looking at you, Will Smith). But the execution of it only really works when the pair are evenly matched. Neeson simply acts Michéal off the screen, and it doesn’t help that he has a far more interesting role to play than the rather vanilla Jack.
Robert is something of a player, as the introductory scene sees a woman leaving his house. Like a typical father, he lectures his son and is full of his own self-importance. He’s also charming and humourous where the film lacks much humour at all (in fairness, there is one amusing scene with Irish actress Eileen Walsh, as she plays a hippy-type woman with some great one-liners).
The comedy plays out as just silly and reliant on slapstick, including a sequence where they try to get a wild animal out of the house. Then there’s the whole adjusting to the new country, language and cuisine trope, the cute local girl, and getting to know other locals through her. You even have a ‘Love Actually’-inspired swim in the lake, and an obligatory emotional breakdown set to sad music.
The feuding between father and son is very generic, as is everything else in this uninspired debut from writer-director James D’Arcy. The pretty and escapist backdrop may appeal to some, and the close-to-home father and son in mourning storyline may move others, but really there’s very little to take from ‘Made in Italy’. It is easy to watch, but it’s not a particularly good film.
‘Made in Italy’ is available on Amazon Prime from Friday, 26th March.