‘Mid-August Lunch’ scrumptious

A scene from Mid-August Lunch, opening in Toronto on Friday.

A scene from Mid-August Lunch, opening in Toronto on Friday.

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:23 PM ET

Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di ferragosto) is a delightful Italian film about that most elusive of film subjects: Old women.

The movie, which was inspired by the real life of actor/filmmaker Gianni Di Gregorio, concerns a middle-aged man and his elderly mother and their life together in Rome. One look at Mother’s (Valeria De Franciscis) complicated manners — never mind her complicated hairstyle — and you get the whole picture. She is an aristocrat and an autocrat all at once, a former beauty accustomed to having her own way but ruling with fairness nonetheless. She’s wonderful. And a bit daunting.

Taking care of his mother has turned into Gianni’s full-time job. He spends a lot of time organizing their household, but that involves pausing for a glass of wine often enough and creating fabulous meals; it’s all sort of slow and pleasant.

The dreaded manager of the condominium where Gianni and his mother live stops by one sunny August afternoon to hector Gianni about the money he owes. The other residents are thinking of suing, he says, putting Gianni on the spot.

Then, the manager offers a solution of sorts: If Gianni will just let the manager’s elderly mother stay over as a house guest for two days, some of Gianni’s debt will disappear. August tends to be holiday month in Italy, as in France, and when one’s elderly mother doesn’t want to travel, or can’t travel, the vacation becomes an issue. Gianni reluctantly agrees to the arrangement.

To his amazement, the manager shows up with not one old lady, but two; Aunt Maria is also without someone to mind her at the moment. Then the doctor comes over to make a quick house call, and the next thing you know, the doctor’s mother is sleeping over also. Gianni has his hands full. And his house.

Despite the sitcom sound of the set-up, Mid-August Lunch never descends into any kind of chaos. There are disputes over the television and some dietary restrictions that aren’t observed and there’s even one run-away, but the story is gentle, amusing and endearing at all times. At Gianni’s house, the women feel free — they have each other for lively conversation, for cards and for a glass of wine. In this company, they stop being old.

Gianni prepares a feast for Ferragosto, the mid-August holiday that celebrates the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — another important mother figure, we must say — into heaven. The details of that meal add up to a truly dreamy film sequence. Gianni and his elderly companions have a luncheon celebration that they just don’t want to end.

You’ll want to get on a plane to Italy.

This is a small, perfectly delicious film. The actors are magical. Di Gregorio has created a little treasure in Mid-August Lunch, and it’s hard to believe he’s the same guy who co-wrote the intense Italian gangster film, Gomorrah.

(This film is rated G)

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca


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