Made In Italy written by James D’Arcy follows the story of estranged father and son, Jack and Robert played by Liam Neeson and his real-life son Micheál Richardson on a journey to sell their house in the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany. However, the likelihood of that house being sold with it’s the owners’ lack of care for the estate and the underlying emotions that led to its dilapidation is slim to none. While Made In Italy at times is very dramatic as its content connects real-life shattering events to the actors portraying our main characters, just like life, it is full of great laughter, charm, and healing despite the circumstances surrounding all of its main characters.
Throughout Made in Italy, there are some amazing visuals, and that’s not just because they shot on location in Tuscany either. Normally I don’t find modern housing or architecture to be too exciting in general let alone in films, however, the cinematography by Mike Eley and his use of Dutch angles, framing, and overall compositions create some beautiful visuals for a film that isn’t on a grand plane.
The casting for Made In Italy is as good as one can get with both experienced and somewhat new to the screen performers. In the aforementioned category, you have Liam Neeson as Robert an aging artist who has all but given up his craft as he no longer feels inspired after the tragic loss of his wife, and Lindsay Duncan as Kate, just Kate mind you, the hard nose no-nonsense realtor. On the younger side, we have Micheál Richardson as Jack, a down on his luck gallery manager who has a divorce pending, and the shadow of the death of his mother looming over him that is until he meets Natalia. Natalia, a compassionate single-mother restaurateur played by Valeria Bilello. Made In Italy might just be the breakout film for Bilello as her charm, emotional vulnerability, comedic timing, and compassion that she conveys throughout the film is extremely well done.
Now if you know the background of who Liam Neeson, and Micheál Richardson are and how they can relate to this story, then you can understand how cathartic this film must have been for them both. If you do not know, Liam Neeson was married to Nastasha Richardson, an actress from the famous British acting dynasty, the Redgraves. She, unfortunately, died suddenly after a skiing accident when Micheál was just 13. These real-life moments while not the direct inspirations for the story of the film enable both Neeson and Richardson the room to explore the feelings they still must be feeling today and in some scenes, I felt this pain in a way that no other medium could convey otherwise.
Grief, self-blame, emotional abandon, and the avoidance of hard truths are all prevalent throughout Made In Italy despite the film being labeled as a father-son comedy and don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of really funny moments in this, there’s a great hentai joke, but what it says about toxic masculinity is what really men should come away with the film. As men, we bottle up our emotions until we are ready to burst, as we have this idea where we must be strong and hold up a false idea of what a man should be or how he should act in certain situations. In this day and age, we as men need to confront our emotions and the situations that bring them on in order for us to grow and for those around us to be able to have more beneficial and emotionally healthy relationships. Both Jack and Robert share a traumatizing past and don’t realize the extent of the damage they have done to each other until they both confront the event and the events thereafter that led to the strain that their relationship has at the beginning of the film.
While Made In Italy is a comedy at times and is a lovely film overall, it is also a film that explores the darker side of father-and-son relationships, loss, grief, toxic masculinity and so much more.