What are the odds of two films set in Italy, where art plays a prominent role, both coming out on the same day? I guess, in a pandemic, all bets are off. The audiences are likely to differ though for the unpredictable adult drama The Burnt Orange Heresy and the predictable, yet harmlessly watchable father-son melodrama Made in Italy, starring real father and son Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson.

The story is bland and riddled with clichés, but even a mellow Neeson knows how to command the screen, and the scenery sure is nice. Need a transition where the plot is extra thin? Just cue the wideshot of the Tuscan landscape!

Here’s the gist: Neeson (Ordinary Love, Cold Pursuit, Taken) plays a Bohemian London artist named Robert who can be a real prick and knows it; and Richardson (Vox Lux) plays his estranged son Jack, who runs an art gallery that he wants to buy out from his soon-to-be ex-wife. Robert and Jack rarely speak.

Being in need of quick cash, Jack gets his father to agree to sell the Tuscan villa that was left to them by his mother, who died in a car accident when Jack was a little boy. The villa doesn’t hold many memories for Jack, but that changes as he and Robert start renovating the place, which has fallen into disrepair (but has “good bones” and a great view.) As they go about restoring the villa to its previous glory, they also tend to their strained relationship. That’s pretty much it.

The film does have some sweet and funny moments and one or two profoundly emotional scenes. It’s likely, however, that Neeson and Richardson didn’t have to dig too deep to source the pain and tears relating to the loss of the characters’ wife and mother. Neeson’s wife (and Richardson’s mother) Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident in 2009. I kept wondering what the conversation must have been like between father and son between takes.

Made in Italy was written and directed by British actor James D’Arcy. It’s his directorial debut, and very “paint by numbers” in construct. Fortunately, Neeson (with his flair for looking pained) helps keep the film a level above “Lifetime movie” territory. A simple 90-minute escape with father and son… under the Tuscan sun.


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