Wait a minute. There was a movie in the middle of all this scenery?!? And I suppose you want a review of it now? But–but…I was having a moment on my imaginary patio! I hadn’t even made it to the bruschetta and the lute players! Well…fine. Whatever. Here’s your damn review, Your Majesty:
Jack (Micheál Richardson) is an ambitious young art curator in London. His charm and confidence bless him with early success, but the wheels fall off when his icy wife (Yolanda Kettle) sues for divorce. She also informs him that her family is reclaiming the gallery where he works in residence. Desperate and devastated, Jack concocts a plan to sell a dilapidated Tuscan house, of which he owns half. The problem? The other owner is his aloof, estranged father Robert (Liam Neeson, Richardson’s own father). Jack informs Robert of his plan, and the two begin a long, awkward drive to Italy.
Thus begins an uneasy mix of heavy-handed family drama and gentle romantic comedy. The rom and com enter the picture when Jack chances to meet Natalia (Valeria Bilello). She’s everything you could want in a plucky love interest: Smart, funny, beautiful, with just enough emotional baggage to keep things interesting. The latter takes the form of an adorable young daughter and a jerkwad ex-husband. He shows up in a couple scenes, just long enough to give the audience time to boo and hiss.
Meanwhile, Jack and Robert resolve to refurbish their rundown house, while also repairing their broken relationship. It turns out that the death of Robert’s wife–Jack’s mother–created a lasting psychological rift between them. The father carries immense guilt, while the son must confront the lifetime of grief he’s been avoiding. This portion of the plot is clumsy, and ordinarily wouldn’t work very well, were it not for the real-life gravity Richardson and Neeson bring to their performances: In 2009, Natasha Richardson, Neeson’s wife, was killed in a freak skiing accident. No doubt the two actors use these roles to work through their pain, and it elevates the drama a notch or two.
Further, Richardson and Bilello click pretty well as a potential couple. They’re good-looking, with a romantic chemistry that gives their dialogue a little extra snap. The script (by James D’Arcy, who also directed) doesn’t take any huge chances with either character, so the fact that they work so well keeps this subplot from becoming downright dull.
To sum all that up: Yes, there’s a movie tucked into all these gorgeous vistas, and it’s not half bad. In the right mood, you might enjoy it as a pleasantly diverting way to spend 94 minutes. Also, in a time where few of us can travel, any movie that can take us to such a beautiful place definitely has at least some merit. That’s assuming, of course, that delectable food, friendly people, and perfect weather are things you might enjoy. And if not, get on up outta here. I’m gonna head back to my fantasy vacation, where the lute players are about to kick off a relaxing version of “November Rain.”
94 min. R.