Year: 2008
Production Co: Revolution Films
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Producer: Michael Winterbottom
Writer: Michael Winterbottom/Laurence Coriat
Cast: Colin Firth, Hope Davis, Catherine Keener

The simple premise deals with a widowed father trying to keep his daughters safe in a new world when he takes a job as a university professor in the titular Italian city to try to get over their collective grief at the death of their wife/mother.

But director Winterbottom buries the story under so much traveloguing and realism it's hard to pluck it out and recognise when the plot is turning. As always he has a wonderful eye for detail and setting and a great ear for naturalistic dialogue, but you spend quite awhile waiting for the drama to arrive and when it does it's strangely anticlimactic as well as affecting.

It's more about the development of the three family members wrought by their new home than traditional storytelling. The father (Firth) makes his first stumbling steps back to the world of romance at the hands of a student who seems to harbour a crush. The youngest daughter is seeing her mother's ghost everywhere, the result of guilt from her complicity in her mother's death. And the eldest daughter is discovering her sexual power as a woman, moving away from her father just when he wants nothing more than to keep both girls in his orbit.

As always with Winterbottom it's less about plot and more about dialogue and performance. If it was a book it wouldn't be described as a page-turner, but he's always a filmmaker to watch.

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