A small-scale memoir in which an adult man remembers events from his childhood during World War II, “15 Amore” is a wholly indie Aussie film which, against fairly heavy odds, manages to develop into a moving story. Writer-director Maurice Murphy is four-walling pic in various regional centers in Australia after failing to broker a deal with any distrib. A booking in an indie Sydney cinema is in the planning stages, but, without any of the regular distribution infrastructure (pic hasn’t been screened for critics), Murphy is facing an uphill battle. He should have no trouble, however, selling the film in ancillary markets in Oz.
Narrated by Bill Hunter as the adult Brendan, pic is set in the closing stages of the war in the picturesque Hunter Valley of New South Wales, where Dorothy (Lisa Hensley) raises three children on a small farm while her husband is away fighting. Brendan (Nicholas Bryant), the youngest, enjoys life with his pubescent sister, Mercia (Rhiana Griffith), and older brother, Denis (Joel Pieterse). Their mother is able to keep the farm going only because of the presence of two Italian POWs, Alfredo (Steve Bastoni) and Joseph (Domenic Galati), who have been assigned by the authorities to work as farm laborers.
Brendan looks at the amiable Alfredo as a surrogate dad, and, indeed, the cheerful Italians are great company for everyone. It soon becomes obvious that there’s an unstated attraction between the equally lonely Alfredo and Dorothy.
Other boarders at the farm are Jewish refugees from Germany, Mme. Guttman (Gertraud Ingeborg) and her twentysomething daughter, Rachel (Tara Jakszewicz). Despite her ethnic background, the rather strange Mme. Guttman is fiercely pro German; she thinks the Nazis are just an unpleasant minority and she is proud of her German heritage — not the most popular attitude to take in this rural backwater.
Pic drifts amiably along, coasting on minor incidents and routines, with Joseph and Rachel starting an affair (a rather silly nude love scene, witnessed by wide-eyed Denis) and Alfredo almost dying from a tick bite.But with war’s end , sudden drama erupts when Mme. Guttman accuses the Italians of sexual misbehavior, citing not her daughter as the victim but the totally innocent and uncomprehending Mercia.
With the most modest of means, Murphy tells this small, intimate story with a fair amount of charm and, presumably, autobiographical insight. Lead performers and the children are convincing in their admittedly undemanding roles, though there’s an unevenness of playing among some of the minor players. Title refers to the Italians’ way of scoring the tennis matches the characters regularly play.