Mary (played by Perla Haney-Jardine) and Kelly (by Willa Holland) are the daughters of Marianne (by Hope Davis) and Joe (by Colin Firth), living in Chicago. One day the girls are happily travelling along in the car with their mother, when they are involved in a car accident and Marianne is killed. The tragedy rocks the family and Joe decides that a move to Italy for a year would be a good change for the family while they are facing their grief. Joe has a friend living in Genova and he has arranged a university position there for a year. When they arrive in Italy, the family meet Joe’s former colleague Barbara (by Catherine Keener) and begin to settle in. Sixteen year old Kelly quickly adapts to the social scene and makes some new friends – she starts to take a few risks and seems keen to do anything that will take her mind away from her difficult memories. On the other hand, her 10 year old sister Mary finds life without her mother far more difficult. She wakes in the middle of the night and screams for her mother. Through her ongoing grief her mother starts to appear to her. Their father is concerned for both daughters and through his love, honesty and strength he faces the world and steadfastly cares for his family as they struggle through the pain to try to get back to a normal life. Barbara is a good friend and sympathetic towards Mary, but she’s not too maternal which is quite refereshing and good to see. We watch as the family slowly settle into their life in Italy.
In terms of drama, the story is quite subdued – however, while it has the potential to turn into a supernatural feature that survives on its special effects, I am happy to say it doesn’t do that. The grief of Mary is treated beautifully in the story and I love the way Joe cares for his girls through their trauma and challenges – he’s a lovely father. All the performances are excellent, Colin Firth does a great job as the grieving Joe, as a young actor Perla Haney-Jardine has a tough job to play a role so traumatic and she succeeds wonderfully. Willa Holland is a very beautiful girl and she portrays the troubled and rebellious Kelly very well indeed. These characters are all well countered by the levelling and steady Barbara and Catherine Keener plays this role very nicely. The stunning landscape, architecture and beauty of Genova, with its beaches and surrounds features heavily in the movie. It’s a well-made film.
(Made: 2009) Directed by Michael Winterbottom.