Greetings again from the darkness. The Tuscan region of Italy is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s a terrific choice for the setting of one’s first screenplay and directorial debut. It’s also a marvelous spot for real life father and son actors to work together. All of that is in play here as noted actor James D’Arcy delivers his first feature as writer-director, and the father-son team of Liam Neeson and Micheal Richardson star as, yes, father and son. This is a story of estrangement and re-connecting amidst the glorious wonder of Tuscany.
Jack (Micheal Richardson) has delayed signing the divorce papers delivered by his wife Ruth (Yolanda Kettle, “Marcella”) in hopes of buying her family’s art gallery, which he has been managing. Ruth gives him one month to come up with the money. Jack knows his only hope is to sell the Tuscan estate he co-owns with his estranged father Robert (Liam Neeson). Father and son have rarely spoken since the mother-wife was killed in a car accident while Robert was driving. Like most any parent under duress, Robert made decisions he thought were best for his son, but were actually made with self-interest. In the wake of tragedy, rarely is shipping the kid off to boarding school a better choice than pulling them closer. This prevented the development of any relationship, though it also created a block in bohemian artist Robert’s work.
When they arrive at the home, the men are shocked at the advanced state of disrepair. Sharp-tongued local real estate agent (and ex-pat) Kate (Lindsay Duncan) gives them little hope for a sale unless renovations are made. The manual labor drives yet another wedge between father and son, and Jack finds an attractive good listener in local restauranteur and chef Natalia (Valeria Bilello). She happens to love the house he owns and, in jest, offers a dish of her “amazing” risotto as down payment.
The challenges of home renovations coupled with the locked away memories lead Jack and Robert to a breakthrough, but Jack’s issues with his wife and Natalia’s troubles with her ex-husband mean nothing goes smoothly for anyone. Most of the movie is spent with each of these folks trying to come to grips with the personal waters they themselves muddied.
Micheal Richardson does a very nice job here, and actually holds his own on screen with his powerhouse father. Richardson is the son of Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson, and the grandson of Oscar winners Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Richardson, and the great-grandson of actor Michael Richardson. It’s nice to see father and son working together, though the story line might have hit a bit too close to home, given the death of Natasha Richardson in 2009 (a skiing accident). Writer-director James D’Arcy is known for his fine work in front of the camera, including Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK. Thanks to the work of cinematographer Mike Eley in capturing Montalcino, Mr. D’Arcy’s first feature behind the camera is watchable, despite being easily predictable and formulaic.
watch the trailer: