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Mid-August Lunch (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Starring Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti, Maria Calì, Grazia Cesarini Sforza, Alfonso Santagata, Luigi Marchetti, Marcello Ottolenghi and Petre Rosu.

Written by Gianni Di Gregorio.

Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio.

Distributed by Zeitgeist Films. 75 minutes. Not Rated.

To give an idea of the cultural differences between countries and film communities, there is almost no shot that a movie like Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di Ferragosto) would ever be made in Hollywood.

While there is nothing earth-shattering or even overly stimulating in the movie, the fact that US filmmakers could not explore this type of subject is probably a shame.

Mid-August Lunch is a quiet, subtle little slice of life which will not change anyone’s existence, but it still turns a camera on people who would normally be ignored in cinema. While the film is merely very pleasant rather than being an exciting or groundbreaking, you can’t help but think that celluloid should be able to tell tiny stories like this as well.

After all, this is a story of a middle-aged man playing host to four elderly women. None of the cast members (with the exception of one woman who is only seen once from off a balcony) is under 55 years old.

Not exactly sexy, but who says all movies have to be sexy?

This is understood in Italy (as well as many other countries’ film industries).

Outside of Hollywood, films will occasionally be made about elderly people other than Clint Eastwood. And here, the elderly people don’t have to threaten to kill anyone.

Mid-August Lunch has a much simpler agenda. A middle-aged man named Gianni (played by writer/director/star Gianni Di Gregorio) is caring for his 93-year-old mother – making it nearly impossible for him to hold a job. He owes back condo fees and may lose their smallish home, so he agrees to care for the building manager’s mother during the summer holiday Pranzo di Ferragosto, in exchange the manager will waive the past-due money. At the last minute, the manager also has to bring his elderly aunt along. Then Gianni’s doctor friend is called into the hospital on duty and asks Gianni if he will care for his mother as well overnight.

Suddenly, before he knows it, Gianni is responsible for keeping four women in their eighties and nineties comfortable in a three-bedroom condo. A kind, quiet man who really just wants to drink wine and smoke cigarettes with his friend in a local café now suddenly has to cook for, care for and wrangle up four very different women who only have their basic age in common. Sometimes the ladies are kind, sometimes they are exasperating, however Gianni comes to know and care for all of them – and the women all find renewed vitality in their tiny community.

A long time Italian actor and screenwriter, Di Gregorio apparently found inspiration for this – his directing debut – when caring for his own elderly mother. He came to understand being “surrounded by her world” – as he put it. He also came to see the strength, warmth and humor of the elderly, as well as their isolation and vulnerability.

This is a story that is obviously very personal for all the actors here. It is no coincidence that the character names for Gianni and all four women actors are the same as their actual first names.

Will it resonate quite so deeply with an audience that is further removed from the situation? Quite probably not. Mid-August Lunch is a film that is quietly agreeable and charming rather than one likely to stimulate great passion.

However, Mid-August Lunch shows elderly people to be passionate, funny, occasionally foolish, and mostly very recognizably human. It is sad that this is so uncommon in movies.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: February 5, 2010.

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