A son burnishes some golden years

Posted: April 09, 2010

Slender as a strand of capellini, as Italians call angel-hair pasta, Mid-August Lunch is a pleasant taste of Roman life.

The semi-autobiography starring, written, and directed by Gianni di Gregorio (who cowrote the Neapolitan gangster saga Gomorrah) is the tale of a fiftyish bachelor, Gianni (di Gregorio), devoted to his nonagenarian mother (Valeria de Franciscis). Gianni lives on credit to care for the matriarch, who herself resembles a strand of capellini topped with a saucy blond bouffant. Think Elaine Stritch.

It's a humid August in the Trastevere neighborhood, where Gianni fortifies himself with wine and Mom with home cooking. Seeing how lovingly Gianni takes care of Mamma, his creditors, the building manager and the family physician, dump their older relatives on Gianni for the August holiday of Ferragosto.

What ensues in this film shot like a documentary (with nonprofessional actresses) is something like the Golden Girls' Roman Holiday. Four women, accustomed to the isolation of widowhood, trade stories and recipes and enjoy their accidental community.

The ladies enjoy their twilight dolce vita by indulging in forbidden food and drink nicely prepared by Gianni. And so do we. Their joy in life is contagious.


Mid-August Lunch *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Gianni di Gregorio. With di Gregorio and Valeria De Franciscis. Distributed by Zeitgeist Films.

Running time: 1 hour, 15 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating.

Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl.

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