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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Made in Italy is a family dramedy starring Liam Neeson and his real-life son, Micheál Richardson, as a reclusive artist named Robert and his adult gallery-manager son, Jack. They reconnect to renovate and sell the Italian country house they inherited from their late wife/mother. The movie deals with mature themes -- including grief, divorce, and single parenthood -- and has a large dose of strong language ("f--k," "f--king," "s--t," etc.). But there are also themes of communication, compassion, and empathy, and the movie promotes close, open relationships between parents and adult children. Romance is limited to flirting and a few kisses; adults drink socially. Expect a couple of potentially upsetting conversations about the tragic death that changed both men's lives.
What's the story?
MADE IN ITALY follows 20-something Londoner Jack Foster (Micheál Richardson), who manages an art gallery that turns out to belong to his soon-to-be ex-wife's family. When Jack's estranged wife tells him he has to buy her out of the gallery or lose it, he decides to ask his father, now reclusive but once famous artist Robert Foster (Liam Neeson), to sell the Italian country house the two inherited after Robert's wife/Jack's mother died decades ago. Jack (who was a young child when his mother died) and Robert return to the Tuscan hills together for the first time since the tragic accident and discover that the house has "good bones" but is otherwise in utter disrepair. An English estate agent named Kate (Lindsay Duncan) encourages the father-and-son pair to renovate the house to a salable condition. As they get reacquainted, Jack meets Natalia (Valeria Bilello), a beautiful chef/restaurant owner who encourages the Fosters to rethink selling their gorgeous family home.
Is it any good?
Real-life father and son Neeson and Richardson give affecting performances in this predictable but poignant dramedy set in the gorgeous Tuscan hills. Audiences aware of Neeson and Richardson's personal history -- that Neeson's wife/Richardson's mother, Natasha Richardson, died tragically after a skiing accident in 2009 -- will see the immediate parallels with the story of Robert and Jack losing their beloved wife/mother in a car accident when Jack was a young boy. The scenes between Robert and Jack unpacking their grief and the aftermath of the accident are particularly authentic, the emotion visceral.
There's a natural beauty to films set in Italy, and director James D'Arcy uses the country's idyllic landscapes in a way that lovingly captures the light. Despite its heavy themes, the plot of Made in Italy is remarkably easy to follow, especially when it comes to the men's potential love interests, who are identifiable from their first moments on screen. Bilello is well-cast as a luminous single mother who's also an exceptional chef and an almost magical restaurant owner. And Duncan is fabulous as the candid, eyebrow-raising estate agent who manages to get Robert to share about his past. Although the story is thin, there's substance in the simplicity, and it's refreshing to see Neeson play a father who doesn't tote guns or have to extract his child from kidnappers.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the movie portray father-son relationships? How do Robert and Jack compare to other father-son duos you've seen in movies, TV, and popular culture?
What's the role of visual art in the movie? How does art impact the various characters? What do you think of Robert's work?
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2020
- Cast: Liam Neeson, Micheál Richardson, Lindsay Duncan
- Director: James D'Arcy
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Cooking and Baking, Arts and Dance
- Character strengths: Communication, Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language
- Last updated: December 3, 2020
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