Mid-August Lunch (2008)

“Elegantly played and emotionally lively, Mid-August Lunch is might be small but it is perfectly formed, deftly revealing over the course of its seventy minute running time, the obsessions of the Italian male; mama, food and hypochondria.”

‘Mid-August Lunch’, directed by Gianni Di Gregorio (who also starred) in 2008, is a short but sweet movie about a middle-aged single man called Gianni who lives in Rome. He finds himself entertaining his mother and three other elderly women during a summer holiday feast, cooking for them, looking after them and attempting to resolve the social sniping between them. The whole film is really a series of meals, each scene revolving around wine or food and, despite the fact that Gianni is on his downers, broke and about to be evicted from his flat, it’s a hugely positive and sunny movie. Thematically this reminded me of Yasujirō Ozu’s classic ‘Tokyo Story’ and Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Wild Strawberries’. They all share the same preoccupation of relationships between the generations and they all, to one degree or another, focus on the abandonment of the elderly. In Gregorio’s film, the three women are left by the families with Gianni, and in one case Gianni is blackmailed into looking after his landlord’s mother. But Gianni turns out to be the hero of this story, patiently if haphazardly smoothing tensions and doing his utmost to ensure that his guests are comfortable. Gregorio’s film, unlike Ozu’s and Bergman’s is told from the perspective of the son and not the parents, but it still manages to relay just as much about humanity and the importance of caring for other people as the other two, more famous films. But here the food and wine is the real star. It was all I could do not to get to the end of ‘Mid-August Lunch’ and to cook a vast amount of pasta.

Would I recommend it? Yes – definitely in a double bill with either ‘Tokyo Story’ or maybe ‘Wild Strawberries‘.

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