“Made In Italy” is a film that admittedly struck me harder with the talent behind the camera. The story follows a struggling artist on the risk of losing his gallery (Micheál Richardson) making a trip from London to Italy with his father (Liam Neeson) to sell their family's Italian summer home. A premise like that may seem to sound a little dated, but there's something else I want to discuss before I get into my opinion about the film. In real life. Neeson and Richardson are father and son. Not to put a downer on the review, but please research the story of Neeson’s late wife and Richardson's mother who had a terrible skiing accident. Since a lot of the drama of the film involves the passing of these characters’ wife and mother, it makes the emotion hit harder.
While I can see where some may read the film as melodramatic, the drama on display comes from a very humane place. The cliche of a disgruntled father and son relationship is something that critics and fans usually scrunch their nose at. What makes me so forgiving of these cliches is that the drama here comes from a real place. Both performances (not just counting the fact that they’re related) come from a place of absolute honesty. What you can feel from the moment these actors appear together on screen, you feel the honest love. Nothing feels forced or manipulative, it comes from a place of humanity. In large part minus the performances, I want to give a shoutout here to director James D’Arcy.
This is his directorial debut and he delivers in creating such a heartfelt and emotionally moving father and son tale. There’s a respect here for how D’Arcy treats this material without coming across as heavy handed. Out of place comedic bits don’t hit the mark the way they were intended, but that is a slight qualm. Those comedic bits do lend themselves to introducing new characters (such as love interests) which is where my issues come to fruition. While the relationship between Richardson and Neeson is fun to watch and feels incredibly raw and real, it sometimes undercut the top side characters (I won’t spoil exactly how these side characters play into the story). I will just say that they’re hard to miss and quite typical for these types of films.
A story like this is a type of product that can level heavily into cliches that do not work. Thankfully in the case of this film, we have a father and son whose relationship feels honest. Now, I certainly do not want to make any sort of criticism via the personal trauma faced by this family. For a story with that sort of personal cast connection, it not only enforces the quality of performances but helps an audience understand why the emotional beats hit as hard as they do. The film will be available for rental starting on Friday, Aug. 7, but I want to thank the kind folks at IFC for sending me an early link. “Made in Italy” is not a perfect movie, but it is one that will move you more than you think if you let it.
Check out the film's trailer here!