Mid-August Lunch

A charming, unpretentious film, "Mid-August Lunch" is whisper-thin and so delicately balanced that piling on too much praise could punch a hole in its unassuming cocoon.

With: Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti, Maria Cali, Grazia Cesarini Sforza, Alfonso Santagata, Luigi Marchetti, Marcello Ottolenghi, Petre Rosu, Gianni Di Gregorio.

A charming, unpretentious film, “Mid-August Lunch” is whisper-thin and so delicately balanced that piling on too much praise could punch a hole in its unassuming cocoon. Story of a sixtysomething guy who lives with his mother and is forced to look after three other elderly ladies has a naturalism and focus that could serve as a template for aspiring directors who too often think small is somehow less worthwhile. Scripter Gianni Di Gregorio’s helming debut is a surefire pleaser for crowds of a certain age, and should win over Italo fests worldwide. Pic nabbed the prize for first feature in Venice.

Thanks to his years in the biz as scribe and assistant director, Di Gregorio was able to bring together a team of ace technicians despite a super-low budget: besides Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah”) as producer, the pic has top editor Marco Spoletini onboard, as well as scripter Massimo Gaudioso collaborating as artistic director. Along with a cast of largely nonpros, they’ve succeeded in lensing a slip of a story whose gentle, feel-good vibes and Cassavetes-inspired camerawork can straddle both popular and critical tastes.

Popular on Variety

Gianni (Di Gregorio) lives in the Roman district of Trastevere with his 93-year-old mother, Valeria (Valeria De Franciscis). A character in the best sense, Valeria enjoys a close, conspiratorial relationship with her son, while his social life is, by necessity, limited. On the eve of the midsummer Italian holiday of Ferragosto, he’s approached by building manager Luigi (Alfonso Santagata) and blackmailed into looking after Luigi’s mother for two nights in exchange for forgiving certain tenant debts.

But when Luigi comes to the apartment, he’s brought his aunt Maria (Maria Cali) as well as his mother, Marina (Marina Cacciotti). Soon after, Gianni’s doctor friend Marcello (Marcello Ottolenghi) pays a call, asking if he can leave his mother, Grazia (Grazia Cesarini Sforza), for “just one night.” The four women, each with her own strong personality, prove a handful, but Di Gregorio’s approach is true to life, avoiding platitudes or exaggeration as he spins a warm-hearted, humorous tale.

The helmer refuses to fetishize aging, yet he doesn’t ignore its ravages, either. Though obviously not professional thesps, these gals bring something ineffably genuine to their roles –Sforza, in particular, has an unassuming naturalness and a great sense of comic timing.

Low wattage in the interiors may have saved electricity bills but also capture the invariably penumbral lighting inside Italian homes during the August heat. Camerawork is fluid without any bells and whistles, while a light hand with the music prevents the sweetness from welling up and overwhelming this “Lunch’s” balanced subtlety.

Mid-August Lunch


Production: A Fandango Distribuzione release of an Archimede production, in collaboration with RAI Cinema. (International sales: Fandango Portobello Sales, London.) Produced by Matteo Garrone. Directed, written by Gianni Di Gregorio, from a story by Di Gregorio, Simone Riccardini.

Crew: Camera (color), Gian Enrico Bianchi; editor, Marco Spoletini; music, Ratchev & Carratello; production designer, Susanna Cascella; costume designer, Silvia Polidori; sound (Dolby Digital), Filippo Porcari; artistic direction, Massimo Gaudioso. Reviewed at Politecnico Fandango, Rome, Aug. 22, 2008. (In Venice Film Festival -- Critics' Week.) Running time: 75 MIN.

With: With: Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti, Maria Cali, Grazia Cesarini Sforza, Alfonso Santagata, Luigi Marchetti, Marcello Ottolenghi, Petre Rosu, Gianni Di Gregorio.

More Film


    Gaumont Scales Down U.S. Operations, Anticipates Big Losses (EXCLUSIVE)

    Gaumont, the once thriving French studio behind “The Intouchables” and “Narcos,” is set to rejig its film and TV strategy as it anticipates heavy losses in 2019. Variety can reveal that the company has all but shut down its TV distribution operations in the U.S., recently axing 12 employees, including Vanessa Shapiro, president of worldwide [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari BTS

    Cinema Audio Society Nominees Represent Wide Range of Genres

    There’s an exceptional level of craftsmanship among this year’s nominees for the Cinema Audio Society Awards, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments in sound mixing, a collaborative discipline that requires sound editors, re-recording mixers, Foley and ADR artistry to work together to create a harmonious finished product. The categories considered are: live action, animated and documentary features, [...]

  • My Name is Baghdad

    Reel Suspects Acquires Berlinale Generation Title 'My Name is Baghdad' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Reel Suspects has acquired international sales rights to Caru Alves de Souza’s coming-of-age tale “My Name is Baghdad,” which will world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in the Generation 14 section. The film was produced by Manjericão Filmes and Tangerina Entretenimento. It follows a 17-year-old female skater named Baghdad who lives in a working-class [...]

  • My Salinger Year

    Berlin Film Festival to Open With Sigourney Weaver, Margaret Qualley Starrer 'My Salinger Year'

    The 70th edition of the Berlinale will open with Philippe Falardeau’s anticipated “My Salinger Year,” headlined by a powerful female duo, Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Qualley. Set in New York’s literary world in the 90’s, the coming-of-age story is based on Joanna Rakoff’s international bestseller and follows Joanna (Qualley), who leaves graduate school to pursue [...]

  • Bad Hair

    'Bad Hair': Film Review

    The year is 1989 and New Jack Swing is about to push black culture from the margins to the mainstream. The question for the black employees of Culture, the music TV station at the center of writer-director Justin Simien’s delightfully macabre horror-dramedy “Bad Hair,” is what image do they — and their white executive Grant [...]

  • Bad Hair

    Justin Simien's 'Bad Hair' is a Tribute to Exploited Black Women Everywhere, Director Says

    Deeply personal but indulgently campy, Justin Simien’s Sundance opener “Bad Hair” is a genre-blending horror show that the director said serves as a tribute to the struggles of black women. The mind behind  “Dear White People” staged the world premiere for the project at Park City’s Ray Theater on Thursday night, before a cast that [...]

  • Taylor Swift: Miss Americana

    'Taylor Swift: Miss Americana': Film Review

    Fly-on-the-wall portraits of pop-music stars used to be dominated by, you know, pop music. The life and personality and woe-is-me-I’m-caught-in-the-media-fishbowl spectacle of the star herself was part of the equation, yet all that stuff had a way of dancing around the edges. Now, though, it’s front and center. In “Taylor Swift: Miss Americana,” we catch [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content