Citizens of the World
- Emma Simmonds
- 8 June 2020
Amiable Italian comedy from Gianni Di Gregorio which sees a trio of pensioners make plans for an adventure
Three Italian pensioners construct a cockeyed plot to emigrate in this amiable, Rome-set comedy from writer-director-star Gianni Di Gregorio. His fourth film, following his loose 'Gianni' trilogy – which comprised Mid-August Lunch, The Salt of Life and Good for Nothing – doesn't exactly find him breaking new ground, but it's a likeable portrait of elderly ennui and oblivious privilege. He plays a character known only as 'the Professor' who teams up with two likeminded peers who aren't fully satisfied with their lot. As they fantasise about far-flung adventures and try to settle on a destination, gentle farce ensues.
Though their pensions don't amount to much, lifelong shirker Giorgetto (Giorgio Colangeli) and former Latin and Greek teacher the Professor have pleasant, even enviable lives, indulging in a boozy, familiar routine at regular haunts where they are fondly welcomed. As they mull over their options for escape, they acquire a third plotter in the shape of the easy-going Attilio (Ennio Fantastichini), who runs a ramshackle antiques operation and seems up for an adventure. Unfortunately, their scheme is beset by impracticalities, and the men quickly find themselves scuppered by bureaucracy, lack of funds and, perhaps most problematically, their own disinclination.
Citizens of the World is as alive to Rome's beauty as the men are unappreciative of it – it's a film of glorious, largely unremarked upon vistas, from cobbled streets to the Colosseum, surrounding lakes and rural hideaways. Giorgetto and the Professor are so set in their ways and snail-like it's unfathomable that they can muster the energy for change and, sure enough, what little resolve they have soon starts to crumble.
There's a funny scene where a wealthy, hen-pecked client of Attilio's (played by Roberto Herlitzka) takes an eager interest in their plans and gives them a careful breakdown of the pluses and minuses of a plethora of countries. On the other hand, the men's modest gripes are thrown into stark relief by the plight of Malian refugee Abu (Salih Saadin Khalid), a young man taken under their wing who, in his desperation to escape the dangers of his home country, has risked everything to enter Italy, where he uncomplainingly lives a hand-to-mouth existence.
Agreeably paced and peppered with plenty of humour, Citizens of the World is a film that's compassionate but never remotely heavy, with Abu's pain in particular held at a remove. Although the trio are somewhat shamed by comparison to their young friend, the film doesn't judge them too harshly – after all, it's human nature to tire of one's life and it doesn't hurt to dream.
Available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema from Fri 12 Jun.