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Published October 17th 2019
Because love, like life, is never perfectly arranged
Promised is a new Australian film starring Tina Arena and Paul Mercurio. It was written and directed by Nick Conidi and explores themes of love, marriage, family values and traditions in the lives of Italian families in post-WWII Australia. Through the focus of an arranged marriage, the film explores the question of how old traditions can survive in a new country and modern world.
As the film opens it is 1953 in Melbourne and we meet two Italian families in a suburban living room. While the men are playing cards, the women are fussing over newborn baby Angela. With little warning, and before her mother can even voice an objection, baby Angela is "promised" in marriage to Robert, the five-year-old son of a family friend.
The film moves swiftly on and the next time we see Angela and Robert together it is 1969. They are attending a party before Robert moves to England to study law. While there seems to be an attraction between the pair, and despite the encouragement of both families, Angela and Robert's relationship doesn't develop much beyond making polite conversation.
We fast forward again to 1974 where we find Angela is studying at university and is secretly dating Tom. As an Italian girl in the 1970s Angela's romantic life is complicated. Tom doesn't know that Angela has been promised to Robert and Angela's parents don't know about Tom. We discover that Angela has never taken the old-fashioned notion of an arranged marriage seriously and in the modern times of the 1970s she aspires to more in life than working in the family pastry shop, getting married and becoming a wife.
However, when Robert returns home from studying at Oxford, Angela is shocked to learn that the hypothetical "marriage" to Robert has quickly turned into an imminent reality. Angela feels the pressure from her parents and family to keep the promise. There is also added pressure as Robert's father, Joe is "connected" in the Italian community.
While Angela's mother shows some reluctance to go ahead with the marriage, her father is implacable due to a debt he owes Robert's father. Angela is desperate to escape the marriage and considers eloping with Tom, however, she is reluctant to be the cause of embarrassment and shame for her family. The only person with a sympathetic ear is her gentle Uncle Dino, who can only offer her some advice, "love will find a way".
Under threats of violence, Tom and Angela realise there is little they can do to stop the arranged marriage from going ahead. After a sorrowful wedding day and an unconsummated honeymoon in Italy Robert and Angela move into the house Robert's father has gifted to them and begin their charade of a marriage. But as surprising revelations come to light Angela must decide who she can trust and if the one she loves deserves a second chance. Will love find a way despite all the secrets and lies that have brought Robert and Angela together?
Promised is the debut movie for writer and director Nick Conidi. Having grown up during this era, and as part of this culture, he has a very personal connection to the story. Explaining his motivation for making this film he says, "This film is a look at the tradition of arranging love, seeking love and finding love... just not as planned. The Graduate and The Godfather were my greatest influences - they explore many of the themes that have always fascinated me around the universal subjects of love, honour, duty and freedom. A romantic with a deep respect for tradition, I was determined to make a film growing up in Australia during the '60s and '70s, from my experience and perspective."
Similarly Tina Arena, who plays Angela's mother, Rosalba, also makes her debut in this film which is an important one to her personally. With her own parents uniting as the result of an arranged marriage in Sicily, this personal connection to the story was the impetus for Tina to make her feature film debut. Not surprisingly, after so many years of show business experience, her performance does not disappoint and will surely be the first of many more film roles to come.
Another great reason to watch this film is for the performance of Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) graduate Antoinette Iesue, who plays the role of Angela. She gives an excellent performance in this film, and is so easy to watch, that I'm sure we will be seeing much more of her in the future. The role of Robert is played by another WAAPA graduate, Daniel Berini, who is known for roles in Australian television such as Love Child and The Secret Daughter.
Other cast members include Paul Mercurio in the role of Angela's father, Sal and Mirko Grillini in the role of Robert's father, Joe, while Santo Tripodi plays the part of Tom.
Promised takes a light-hearted approach to the subject matter and is not an overly dramatic or heavy film. The themes of the film are relatable to the wider community, and I'm sure everyone can relate to the moral of this story that "Love, like life, is never perfectly arranged".
Running Time: 93 minutes
Promised opens in cinemas nationally from 24th October 2019