Mid-August Lunch

This comedy with a cast of OAPs is a radical departure for Gomorrah's director



 Making Gomorrah must take it out of you. All that gunfire, all that bloodshed. All those death threats, all the trekking round the globe to collect awards. So director Matteo Garrone (here producing) and writer Gianni Di Gregorio (here also directing and starring) can be forgiven for slowing things down for their follow-up.

Mid-August Lunch chronicles a food-filled nonagenarian sleepover, catered for by the only cast member under 60: Gianni (Di Gregorio), is a gummy-eyed bachelor who tends to his mother Valeria (Valeria de Franciscis) in their small Rome flat.

It's the midsummer bank holiday and most families have left the sticky city for the coast. The apartment block caretaker, Luigi, is keen to follow suit, but he, too, has an elderly mamma to care for. In return for some waived utility bills, Gianni agrees to take her overnight. Yet when Luigi shows up an hour later with wheezy Marina (Marina Cacciotti), an even older sister, Maria (Maria Calì), is in tow, too. No matter:   a small bundle of euros and Gianni is making up another spare bed.

It's the same story when Gianni phones the doctor about his worsening angina. The doc is unexpectedly on the night shift; his mother will be left home alone – might Gianni mind another mouth to feed? Grazia (Grazia Cesarini Sforza) is, in fact, the easiest of his new charges – at least until she starts smuggling cheese into her bedroom (her son insists she keep to a strict steamed vegetable diet). Maria, likewise, is a sweetie, save for when Gianni puts the wrong kind of pasta in the pot.

Marinaresplendent in frills, pickled in perfume – presents more of a problem when she escapes to the local bar, and again when she's in the mood for romance. But it's Gianna's own mother who's the snippiest. Valeria is an imposing sight: a great, chestnut-coloured hawk, smothered in lipstick topped with towering whips of golden hair, but she has the poise, as well as the looks, of a comtessa: refusing to dine in the kitchen, or to let the others enjoy equal TV rights.

Initially, Gianni copes by necking chablis and sharing his woes with a tramp. But eventually, as the women mellow over asti and palm-reading, he begins to enjoy himself – even later, when soothing them in the small hours or slipping medication into their camomile tea.

Mid-August Lunch is a film of rare benevolence that treats its subjects with dignity and playfulness. It's ­ almost impossible to think of an equivalent from this country or the US – the nearest I can get is Alexander Mackendrick's The Ladykillers. In fact, it's so culturally alien (this is a world in which it's unthinkable to abandon your mother, even for the night, even if she's not especially vulnerable) that you can come away with a feeling of considerable shame.

In its sedate way, the film bucks convention at every turn. Despite the age of most of the cast and ill-health of the hero, nobody suffers more than indigestion. The only professional actor here is Di Gregorio; of the women, one is his aunt, another a friend, two were scouted in a care home. The ending, too, feels quietly revolutionary: maybe family isn't, always, the best way. Perhaps friends – and bribes – can turn out to be more compassionate.

benevolence: życzliwość

bloodshed: rozlew krwi

buck: opierać się (czemuś)

bundle: zwitek

chestnut: kasztanowy

frill: falbana

hawk: jastrząb

imposing: wspaniały, imponujący

in tow: to be in tow: towarzyszyć, ciągnąć się za kimś

mellow: łagodnieć

nonagenarian: dziewięćdziesięciolatek

palm-reading: chiromancja, wróżenie z ręki

pickled: zmarynowany, zapeklowany

poise: pewność siebie

resplendent: olśniewający, wspaniały

sedate: spokojny, stateczny

smother: pokrywać, okrywać

snippy: opryskiliwy, nieuprzejmy

steam: gotować na parze

tend to: doglądać, opiekować się

waive: zrzekać się (płatności, roszczenia)

wheezy: astmatyczny

whip: bat, bicz

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