Noi e la Giulia, 'The Giulia and Us' is an Italian comedy, where the Giulia is an Alfa Romeo, not a woman. A gentle farce, it is perhaps not the most striking Italian film you will ever watch, but if Italian comedy is a genre that appeals, then this is a fun way to spend just under two hours.
Based on a book by Fabio Bartolomei, the screenplay was devised by Marco Bonini and Eduardo Leo. The plot is naturally ludicrous: Diego (Luca Argentero) is a car salesman struggling to achieve satisfactory levels of customer service; he is challenged by his dying father to do something other than be a wimp. Claudio (Stefano Fresi), an overweight shopkeeper, has incompetently destroyed his family business, causing his wife to leave him. Fausto (Eduoardo Leo) is the flashy TV salesman: a known fraudster, racist, and generally a bit of a failed cad, his debts creep up on him so dangerously that he needs to flee. The three men all go to look at a decrepit farmhouse which has been abandoned rather suddenly by the family trying to run it. The men agree to try collaborating, and running a joint enterprise. Incompetence looks set to reign, but then Fausto's main creditor, Sergio, tracks him down and demands payment. Fausto has no money, so offers him a share in the partnership.
Sergio turns out to be a very competent, practical, somewhat aggressive man with communist tendencies. When the Camorra (local version of the Mafia) turn up, Sergio stands up for workers' rights. Vito (Carlo Buccirosso), the middleman, is taken prisoner, and they bury his car, a green Giulia with a dodgy cassette player blasting out classical music. The rest of the film sees the five men try to deal with the fallout from this situation, as they build a holiday farm around the legend of the classical music playing earth. They are joined by Elisa (Anna Foglietta), after Claudio recommends her as a meek ex-employee to deal with the cooking and cleaning. She turns out to have had a transformation, jilted by her long-term partner and heavily pregnant by an unknown man. Supported by Abu, a local Ghanaian immigrant who also hates the Camorra, this unlikely tribe work out how best to survive, their haphazard group success at least partly due to their individual failures.
The narrator gives us an insight into Diego, and it is mainly Diego that one sympathises with. He transforms from the bespectacled wimp into a charming, handsome, moderately sensible man. The film is directed by Edoardo Leo himself, whose character Fausto also develops, but perhaps remains the least accessible.
In terms of the setting, once the initial flight to the country has taken place then everything hinges on the farm and its transformation. The film must be set in Campania, as this is the area where the Camorra operate. Like other parts of the film, there are a number of assumed cultural 'jokes'; to get them you need to know Italian, and Italian culture. If you do, or are prepared not to worry if you think you're missing something, then this is a good film.
The script has a number of witty one-liners, and some good group scenes, but is not consistently excellent. The subtitles are mainly accurate enough for you to follow without needing to know Italian, and do not detract from the action. There are a couple of irregularities, and added comedy when Vito tries to 'translate' the guys' standard Italian into local youth dialect, which the subtitles have to try to convey in English.
Conceptually, the film plays with ideas and time frames. Supposedly the farm opens for business at Easter, but there is very little sense of the rhythm of the land or the passing of time. Anna Foglietta was, apparently, really pregnant during filming. This may partly account for why she does not seem to grow, or indeed have the baby, in the film; the timeframes don't match The pregnancy becomes almost a theme in its own right: discussions about the baby's name, Diego's growing love for her and acceptance of her circumstances, the vulnerability that pregnancy gives her, these all become aspects of the film. This attitude towards a piece of music, a landscape, a phrase or a gesture all becoming a trope is characteristic of the whole film. It is a comedy partly because it builds up a collection of repetitions that allow the audience to participate in the 'in-jokes'.
IMDB also has some basic information. It was nominated for a number of film prizes in 2015, with a number of the cast up for different awards, including in the Bari International Film Festival, the Golden Globes and the Ciak D'oro. There isn't one main star to the film, which helps give it its communal, conceptual feel. It takes a long time to get going, as plot device piles on plot device, only to come to fruition in the last quarter. The pace is irregular, with bursts of action and development interspersed with much more relaxed sections; sometimes this is satisfying, sometimes frustrating, but in general it does not drag.
There are loose plot ends all over the place. That doesn't have to matter too much though; it comes across as a study in the boundary between optimism and farce. Beautifully shot, well-enough acted to be interesting, with a plot that you do want to see through, this is a gentle but fun film. It leaves you with a challenge to think about the difficulties of living out a dream of paradise, or running away and accepting your failures. Noi e la Giulia constantly asks you to look at life another way, so this is no bad message to finish on. Philosophy and entertainment mix well, even when they're not outstanding.
The film is a Warner Brothers production. It was released on 19th February 2015. There is a Facebook page for it, in Italian.