Billing itself as "the first road movie in which the hero can't start his own car," "La Sicilia" is a slight, affectionate comedy drawing on the experiences of Italian immigrants who came to Belgium in the '50s and '60s to work in the country's mines. Pic failed to generate sufficient word of mouth in central Brussels to last a week in theaters, and looks set for fast playoff in Belgium and elsewhere, with a healthier life on tape and cable. After an opening collage of B&W footage depicting the hectic activity and then sudden closure of Belgian coal mines, film moves to an Italian enclave in Belgium where Luigi Bertone (Gregoire Baldari), a retired mineworker, is preparing to return to Sicily for his goddaughter's wedding. The workings of Luigi's new car, which he has bought to show off to his family, are clearly a mystery to him, and before long it breaks down along a highway, where he meets Anita Onraed (Inge de Waele), a sexy young runaway who repairs it, holds up a service station and drives off with Luigi, an unwilling accomplice.
Pic’s best gags and most touching moments stem from the growing relationship between Luigi, who never had children and whose wife is dead, and Anita, who is an orphan. Added interest is thrown in when, against Luigi’s wishes, the unlikely pair pick up Desire Mbuyu (Hubert Kounde), an illegal African immigrant who has more traits in common with Luigi than the simple Italian at first cares to admit.
Strong, appealing perfs from Baldari, de Waele and Kounde (who played one of the three leading roles in Mathieu Kassovitz’s “Hate”) carry the film along and compensate for occasionally flat gags and excessively syrupy sentiments. Other credits are all pro, with solid direction by Luc Pien. Pic is light and breezy and has heart, but could use a little more bite.