"Mid-August Lunch (2008) is an easy film to underrate," writes Steve Erickson for Artforum. "Its considerable charm lies on its surface; less immediately apparent, but underpinning the whole of the film, is the terror of grappling with the loneliness of aging."
"Watching this lauded but fatally slight comedy of manners about a middle-aged Italian who finds himself caring for four spunky old dames, it's hard to believe writer, director, and star Gianni Di Gregorio also co-wrote the bloody mafia hit Gomorrah," notes Ella Taylor in the Voice.
But for Megan Ratner, blogging for Bright Lights, "Despite its wisp of a story, Mid-August Lunch offers insights about Italian domestic life that are every bit as true as the violence in Gomorrah (2008)."
The wisp goes like this: "A middle-aged schlub living with his 93-year-old mother, Gianni (Di Gregorio) agrees, for financial reasons, to put up three other older ladies during a summer holiday," writes Kevin B Lee in Time Out New York. "Thankfully, the actor-director prepares this potential recipe for hokeyness with all-natural ingredients, casting four of the feistiest biddies he could find, who are all the more endearing for being unadorned."
"How these four elderly women interact and turn Gianni into a willing servant is the substance of Mid-August Lunch, a slender Chekhovian vignette about the joys and regrets of old age and the pleasures of sociability." Stephen Holden in the New York Times: "One of the film's deepest satisfactions is its characters' complete lack of ruminative psychologizing. When the women look back, it is with a sense of having lived full lives. Had Mid-August Lunch wavered from its matter-of-fact realism, it might have toppled into sentimentality or morbidity. Instead it is a group portrait of people who are comfortable with who they are, savoring the pleasures of food and companionship and living in the moment. The movie glows."
Earlier: Reviews from New Directors / New Films 2009.
At New York's Film Forum through March 30.
Updates, 3/19: "After Gabriel Medina's The Paranoids, Mid-August Lunch is the first major contemporary import of 2010," declares Simon Abrams in L Magazine.
Dan Lybarger talks with Di Gregorio for Hollywood Bitchslap.
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