Liam Neeson doesn’t need much introduction as an actor; he’s Liam Neeson. Micheál Richardson is a less familiar figure, and makes for ideal casting as in Neeson’s son in James D’Arcy’s refreshingly genteel Made in Italy; that’s because he is Neeson’s son. What might be seen as stunt casting offers instead hidden depth; a specific shadow hangs over this film; the death of Neeson’s wife, and Richardson’s mother Natasha in 2009. So a drama about a father and son scrambling to rekindle their relationship, disrupted by grief, suggests a personal project, and that’s very much what Made in Italy is, a slight, gentle but knowing drama riddled with small moments of insight.
Richardson plays Jack Foster, a young man experiencing divorce, but determined to buy out his ex-wife from the trendy London gallery they owned. To do this, Jack needs cash, and his eccentric artist father Robert (Neeson) is willing to help by selling up his Italian bolt-hole. When the two men travel to Italy to assess the property, it becomes apparent that the transaction involved is something more complex than just finance.
Critics have carped at the sentiment and ‘mawkish’ air; Made In Italy requires some warning, perhaps, that those recently affected by grief may want to avoid. More mature audiences, however, may appreciate that D’Arcy’s script (and film) make some effort to put how we react to tragedy centre stage; both Robert and Jack are illuminated, not just by the house they share, but by the traditions and atmosphere of the Italian town they inhabit, and the cleansing power of both the old and the new makes for an enjoyably rich experience.
Neeson has probably reached for the action-movie well often enough by now, and it’s a relief to see him in a change of pace that highlights his sensitive features and whispered delivery; clearly the challenge of acting with his own son has brought a different performer to the table that his popular tortured toughie. Richardson is something of a revelation, and there’s nice support from Lindsay Duncan as an estate-agent. While critics and awards bodies steered clear, Made in Italy will undoubtedly find some favour with the public, who will enjoy the simple pleasures of the refined story; not everything in cinema has to pack a wallop to the guts, and the company of these charming men and the Italian countryside works a potent magic if you’ve been stuck on your couch for over a year.
Out now on Amazon Prime in the UK, Link below.
Thanks to Amazon for advance screener access to this movie.