Liam Neeson stars with real-life son Micheal Richardson in “Made in Italy,” but it’s not dad’s show.
Richardson gets the spotlight and it’s wholly earned.
The two play a father and son reuniting after the death of Neeson’s wife. Neeson’s an aloof artist; Richardson’s a gallery owner whose marriage is falling apart.
Together, they journey to Tuscany where, presumably, they’ll restore a house they can sell. There, plenty of memories of the late wife/mother flood back into both their lives.
On paper, it sounds simple. On screen, you can’t help thinking both had thoughts of wife/mother Natasha Richardson. Again, a lot to unpack.
But if you take it at face value, “Made in Italy” is a simple rom-com (too simple, at times) that lets Richardson show just how good those acting genes are.
Fresh and natural, he reacts in interesting ways and isn’t afraid to show his emotions. Neeson, meanwhile, offers one of those buttoned-down performances that take a fight to unleash. Then, the real waterworks start and it’s a quick rush to the end.
Written and directed by James D’Arcy, “Made in Italy” doesn’t take advantage of its setting all that often. The two leads are holed up in the crumbling home for much of the film. When they do get out, D’Arcy doesn’t revel in the landscape. He has a great point-of-view shot from a vehicle, but too many focus on details – like a car’s tires.
Because this wouldn’t be a rom-com without partners, both father and son get women to warm to. Those moments help fill in the blanks about the estranged relationship and, sure enough, there’s a room in the house where plenty of mom’s things have been stashed away. When it’s found (and why this doesn’t happen almost immediately is anyone’s guess), the battle begins.
Lindsay Duncan adds a nice dimension as a real estate agent trying to help them sell the house. Valeria Bilello is good as the woman who gets Richardson to open up.
Still, it’s the father/son dynamic that bears watching.
The two work well together but Richardson really shines. He looks a bit like Orlando Bloom, acts in places like Rupert Everett.
There’s a future here for him. “Made in Italy,” if anything, lifts dad’s shadow.