The annual LaVazza Italian Film Festival is again hosting a wonderful selection of films in 2019, among them the Australian premiere of If Life Gives You Lemons.
The film is the feature debut of director Ciro D'Emilio. D'Emilio's earlier short films have received acclaim, and rightly so. Examples such as Massimo and Un ritorno are the best sort of short films; self-contained, quick to jump right into exposition, and just plain interesting.
Be it the tale of a soldier transitioning back to civilian life, or the black sheep of the family returning to the family village, you'll find yourself invested in the characters and wondering what happens to them after the credits run.
With this first feature-length film, D'Emilio has created a similar world to that in Un ritorno; a slow family tale, simmering with resentment and yearning.
Antonio (Giampiero De Concilio) is a boy on the cusp of manhood, who left school early to look after his mother after she descended into alcoholism and mental illness. He balances his days between soccer training, housework and hanging out with friends who are wanton and carefree in comparison to Antonio. The few people who objectively care about Antonio's future see his only chance as being to leave the small town he lives in.
Miriam (Anna Foglietta) is Antonio's unstable mother, lurching from lovable and friendly one minute, to a trainwreck the next. Virtually the entire village and her family have shunned her, save for Antonio.
Lemon's longer runtime and deeper script add layer upon layer of questions for the viewer; how can Antonio survive looking after his erratic mother? What will be the breaking point that causes him to shout "Basta! (Enough!)"?
Foglietta is a seasoned actor in the Italian industry, but her performance here is restrained enough so as not to overshadow De Concilio, here in his starring debut.
De Concilio is especially well-cast, portraying a complex young man caught between two stages in life and unsure which of them he wants more.
The supporting cast is quite adequate; Antonio's two main friends are likeable enough, and it's bittersweet to see him gradually pull away from them as he evaluates his life and future.
Ultimately, the film and its conclusion are satisfying and provide resolution to the characters and their arcs (on some levels).
The original Italian title, Un Giorno All'Improvviso, could be very roughly translated as "One day suddenly", or "The first day of the rest of your life". This translation is very much in keeping with the common themes of D'Emilio's short films - transitions in life. "What if" or "what happens next" are questions for the ages, and obviously the inspiration for a lot of director D'Emilio's work.
If Life Gives You Lemons is rated M and has a runtime of 88 minutes.