The Wide Oak

Paolo Bianchini tells a familiar story with tact, intelligence and flashes of lyrical beauty in "The Wide Oak," an affecting drama about a Rome family forced to move to the Lazio countryside during the final years of World War II. Offshore prospects are iffy, given the lack of marquee allure on either side of the cameras. Still, this handsomely mounted pic merits global fest showcasing, and might click in video and cable venues. Vincenzo (Gigio Alberti), an idealistic doctor, and Maria (Mariella Valentini), his pianist wife, fear the worst for their three children in 1943 as the fighting draws closer to their comfortable home. They pack up their belongings and move to the country farm run by their beloved Nonno (Gastone Moschin).

With:
Vincenzo ..... Gigio Alberti Maria ..... Mariella Valentini Grandfather ..... Gastone Moschin Luisa ..... Emanuela Moschin Rosetta ..... Virginia Bianco Augusto ..... Alex Partexano Paolo ..... Camillo Fusco Mimmi ..... Roberta Nolis Giuliano ..... Alessandro D'Achille Bruno ..... Andrea Frontoni Giuseppina ..... Sara Piras Mariano ..... Loris Tresoldi

The three children, who range in ages from five to seven, take it all in stride. They’re happy to be living with their grandfather, and manage to make new friends at the local school. (One small problem: Vincenzo, a free-thinker, isn’t too happy about the school’s emphasis on religious training and fascist indoctrination.) The siblings and their new playmates are vaguely aware of their parents’ anxiously whispered conversations. But for them, the far-off war is something that has only an indirect influence on their lives.

When three Italian soldiers set up camp on a nearby beach, the children don’t view them as threatening. And with good reason: The soldiers are bored and lonely fellows who go about their observation duties with little enthusiasm. One of them begins a romance with Nonno’s maid, leading to a briefly funny scene in which Vincenzo’s oldest son spies on the lovers’ tryst.

Only gradually do the children learn, along with the audience, that Nonno has been turning over most of his livestock to a local priest, to feed fugitives hidden at the church. Later, when their aunt and uncle depart to join the anti-fascist partisans, Bruno (Andrea Frontoni), Mimmi (Roberta Nolis) and Giuliano (Alessandro D’Achille) begin to worry in earnest about the war. The Italian government surrenders and German troops move into the area, adding to the suspense.

“The Wide Oak” steers clear of standard melodrama. A scene in which a priest helps an inquisitive child avoid capture by the Germans is all the more gripping for being underplayed.

Bianchini, working from a script he co-wrote with Leone Colonna, does a fine job of sustaining the child’s-eye p.o.v. throughout pic. He gets credible performances from Frontoni, Nolis and D’Achille, and surrounds them with equally well-cast adults. Moschin is extremely effective as the robust and gruffly good-hearted Nonno.

Pic’s only flaw stems from Bianchini’s inexplicable refusal to leave well enough alone. After showing how the family survives the war, he flashes ahead some 40 years to depict the funeral of a principal character. The scene may be intended to end the pic on a note of bittersweet poignancy. As it stands, however, the abrupt shift in tone undercuts the joy of what initially seems like a happy ending.

Giovanni Cavallini’s attractive color lensing is a major asset. Other tech credits are first-rate.

The Wide Oak

Italian

Production: A General Movies production in association with Mediaset. Executive producers, Paolo Landolfi, Raffaello Sarago. Directed by Paolo Bianchini. Screenplay, Bianchini, Leone Colonna.

Crew: Camera (color), Giovanni Cavallini; editor, Antonio Siciliano; music, Fabrizio Siciliano; art direction, Emita Frigato, Giovanna Scappucci; sound, Roberto Alberghini; assistant director, Luca Bianchini. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 23, 1997. (Also in Cannes Film Festival --- market.) Running time: 94 MIN.

With: Vincenzo ..... Gigio Alberti Maria ..... Mariella Valentini Grandfather ..... Gastone Moschin Luisa ..... Emanuela Moschin Rosetta ..... Virginia Bianco Augusto ..... Alex Partexano Paolo ..... Camillo Fusco Mimmi ..... Roberta Nolis Giuliano ..... Alessandro D'Achille Bruno ..... Andrea Frontoni Giuseppina ..... Sara Piras Mariano ..... Loris Tresoldi

More Film

  • Michael Apted

    Michael Apted to Receive Directors Guild's Honorary Life Member Award

    The three children, who range in ages from five to seven, take it all in stride. They’re happy to be living with their grandfather, and manage to make new friends at the local school. (One small problem: Vincenzo, a free-thinker, isn’t too happy about the school’s emphasis on religious training and fascist indoctrination.) The siblings […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

    The three children, who range in ages from five to seven, take it all in stride. They’re happy to be living with their grandfather, and manage to make new friends at the local school. (One small problem: Vincenzo, a free-thinker, isn’t too happy about the school’s emphasis on religious training and fascist indoctrination.) The siblings […]

  • caa logo

    CAA Promotes Ten Trainees

    The three children, who range in ages from five to seven, take it all in stride. They’re happy to be living with their grandfather, and manage to make new friends at the local school. (One small problem: Vincenzo, a free-thinker, isn’t too happy about the school’s emphasis on religious training and fascist indoctrination.) The siblings […]

  • Danielle Feinberg Coco Movie Lighting Design

    'Coco's' Special Lighting Illuminated by Inhouse Coding

    The three children, who range in ages from five to seven, take it all in stride. They’re happy to be living with their grandfather, and manage to make new friends at the local school. (One small problem: Vincenzo, a free-thinker, isn’t too happy about the school’s emphasis on religious training and fascist indoctrination.) The siblings […]

  • Beanie Feldstein Lady Bird

    Scene Stealer: Beanie Feldstein Is the Best Friend We All Want In 'Lady Bird'

    The three children, who range in ages from five to seven, take it all in stride. They’re happy to be living with their grandfather, and manage to make new friends at the local school. (One small problem: Vincenzo, a free-thinker, isn’t too happy about the school’s emphasis on religious training and fascist indoctrination.) The siblings […]

  • Regina Hall Shaft

    Regina Hall to Co-Star in 'Shaft' Sequel With Samuel L. Jackson (EXCLUSIVE)

    The three children, who range in ages from five to seven, take it all in stride. They’re happy to be living with their grandfather, and manage to make new friends at the local school. (One small problem: Vincenzo, a free-thinker, isn’t too happy about the school’s emphasis on religious training and fascist indoctrination.) The siblings […]

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Rockets Toward $425 Million Global Launch Weekend

    The three children, who range in ages from five to seven, take it all in stride. They’re happy to be living with their grandfather, and manage to make new friends at the local school. (One small problem: Vincenzo, a free-thinker, isn’t too happy about the school’s emphasis on religious training and fascist indoctrination.) The siblings […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content