Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di ferragosto) (2008)
Dir: Gianni di Gregorio
Starring: Gianni di Gregorio and Valeria de Franciscis
To be completely honest, I don’t know much about world cinema. I’ve seen some of the more well-known ones – Amélie and Pan’s Labyrinth – but that’s about it. However, when looking on BBC iPlayer for something to watch, it was Mid-August Lunch that caught my eye.
Mid-August Lunch, aka Pranzo di Ferragosto, is the directorial debut of Gianni Di Gregorio, best known for writing the screenplay of 2008’s Gomorrah. The story revolves around Gianni, who lives with his elderly mother in Rome. Not much is known about Gianni other than he is in debt and, presumably, caring for his mother is his full-time job. His mother, Valeria, is a rather feisty woman who Gianni reads to before bedtime.
We join Gianni and Valeria during August, when it is particularly hot. It soon becomes clear that everyone escapes the city and goes on their holidays during August. One such person who wishes to escape on his holiday is Gianni’s landlord, Alfonso. However, Alfonso cannot leave because his mother, Marina, doesn’t want to join him on holiday. In exchange for the postponement of rent arrears and utility bills, Alfonso asks Gianni to look after his mother for two days. However, it is not only Marina that Alfonso delivers but also his elderly aunt, Maria.
A few hours later and it is not only Marina and Maria who are left with Gianni – Gianni’s doctor, Marcellino, also wishes to leave his mother, Grazia, with Gianni while he escapes for a few days. Marcellino’s offer is too good to refuse and soon Gianni is playing host to Grazia, Marina, Maria plus Valeria.
Looking after the four women certainly keeps Gianni busy – each of the women are demanding in their own way. Tensions are frosty to begin with, particularly between Marina and Valeria. Both women want use of the television and after Gianni takes it back from Marina to give to Valeria, Marina locks herself in her room… Out of the women, I would say that Marina is the biggest handful as later on she slips out of her room to drink in a local bar!
When Gianni wakes the next morning, the scene is calm and joyful – the women have bonded over palm readings and discussions about their past loves. In celebration of their new friendship, Gianni is sent out to buy supplies for a special Mid-August lunch (Ferragosto).
The film is a great observation of a man who must step out his comfort zone and accomodate three people who he doesn’t know at all. All he does know is their dietary requirements and medication! Each of the women have their own distinct personalities and Gianni is wonderfully patient with each of them. In essense, the film is a delightfully playful sleepover, which goes to show that new friendships can be found at any age.
Mid-August Lunch‘s achievements:
- WON the Audience Award and Grand Prix awards as the Bratislava International Film Festival
- WON Best New Director at the David di Donatello Awards
- WON the Best New Director award at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists
- WON the Satyajit Ray Award at the London Film Festival
- WON the Isvema Award, the Luigi De Laurentiis Award and the Pasinetti Award at the Venice Film Festival
I am going to add this to my Lovefilm queue this instant!! Why have I never heard of it ?
It was your talk of foreign films that inspired me! It did very well on the film festival front. There’s not a lot of action, more of an observation-type film. Made me want to go to Italy!
I just realised that this film totally has a wacky sitcom premise – one guy, four octogenarians! – but as some foreign films go, they don’t go for flashy and cheap laughs. It’s a cliche, but it’s a very slice of life kind of movie and I enjoyed it.
Nicely put, Paolo, a ‘slice of life’ movie. It does feel like you’re observing someone’s life.
What would your foreign film recommendations be?
My taste is pretty boring and my first impulse is to recommend Fellini. His movies are like surreal masculine fantasies, but also good.