‘Lunch’ fills you with warmth

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, April 28, 2010 7:11pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

If “Mid-August Lunch” were longer than its ever-so-slim 75 minutes, it might turn into some kind of great film. But possibly not; maybe this sketchlike movie works because of its modesty.

Try to use adjectives for this picture, and they all sound condescending. Yes, it’s charming. Winsome. Adorable, even.

But don’t hold that against it.

“Mid-August Lunch” is built around an awkward weekend: Gianni (played by director Gianni di Gregorio) is a man over 50 who still lives with his mother (Valeria De Franciscis).

They haven’t paid many bills for their Rome condo in the last three years, but the landlord has a way to wipe off some debt: His mother and her aunt need a place to stay for a couple of nights, and if Gianni will board them, certain financial considerations will be made.

Gianni really doesn’t have much choice. And when his doctor stops by and mentions that his mother also needs a place to bunk for an evening or two, well, the more the merrier.

You’d think that to wring laughs or drama out of this situation, Gianni would either be comically exasperated by this upheaval, or maybe plotting some ulterior motive.

But no. He’s not thrilled by the crowd, but he dutifully goes about shopping for food and cooking up a feast for the elderly ladies. The incidents are mild: some feuding about the TV set, some restlessness during the warm Roman night, and, of course, food is prepared, which Gianni manages even though it’s very difficult for him not to be drinking a refreshing glass of wine whenever possible.

Gianni di Gregorio is not a full-time actor (he was one of the screenwriters of the powerful “Gomorrah”), yet he has exactly the worldly, lived-in look the role needs.

We never learn why his character is still living with his mother — his health? His lack of visible employment? His fondness for pinot grigio? — but we can assume that she has the dominant personality in the family.

Yet this is a slice of life without much angst or hand-wringing worry. Gianni glides through his day, running his errands, talking with friends. Everything’s fine.

And out of this very small situation comes a little gem of a picture. I’m not sure I laughed out loud during “Mid-August Lunch,” but I smiled a lot, and the warmth of the movie spreads quickly — much like an indulgent glass of wine in the afternoon.

“Mid-August Lunch” ½

Tiny little slice of life about a 50ish man tending his ancient mother and a group of elderly ladies staying over in his Rome apartment. It doesn’t sound like much, but director Gianni di Gregorio (who also plays the central role) makes this into a warm, funny character study. In Italian, with English subtitles.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG for subject matter

Showing: Guild 45th

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