Made in Italy (2 stars)

Made in Italy

Misjudged family dramedy, starring father and son Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson

Escapist entertainment has often been welcomed in these trying times but the world of irritating and oblivious privilege that Made in Italy transports us to will have you longing to return to lockdown. The feature debut of writer-director James D'Arcy – best known as an actor in everything from Broadchurch and Homeland to Avengers: Endgame and Dunkirk – sadly comes from a place of colossal misjudgement, as it tells the story of a twentysomething forced to sell his family's second home in Tuscany so he can buy an art gallery.

Adding nepotism to the mix, the film pairs real-life father and son Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson as reclusive artist Robert and his son Jack. The pair have struggled since the death of Jack's Italian mother, Raffaella, who died in a car accident when he was seven, with Robert closing himself off to his son and erasing all signs of Raffaella in the aftermath.

At the outset, we find out that Jack is separated from his wife Ruth (Yolanda Kettle) and that her family are planning to sell the gallery which he – shock horror – runs. The only way to buy it from them is to sell the aforementioned neglected but basically spectacular Tuscan villa, which he owns jointly with his father, which means reuniting with Robert and renovating the property together. It's a premise that's crassly unpacked in mere minutes.

'I can't follow in Dad's footsteps, he's so charming and easy and talented,' Jack moans at one point in a film that plays heavily on what we can assume are real issues and insecurities relating to the actors' relationship. What saves Made in Italy from being totally insufferable is a certain amount of poignancy that comes from the knowledge that Natasha Richardson, Neeson's wife and Micheál's mother, also died in an accident; there are moments, therefore, that it's hard not to be touched by. Another saving grace is the great Lindsay Duncan, who is typically formidable and wonderfully withering as Kate, the estate agent the pair work with on the Tuscan house.

But such small successes are not enough. Sidelining the often extremely capable Neeson Senior (see Ordinary Love for some powerful, recent, non 'geriaction' work) in favour of the inexperienced Neeson Junior – who pouts, mopes and grumbles and brings very little depth to his turn – is obviously a mistake. If the scenery is glorious, any emotional resonance is undermined by how annoying it all is, while the premise is so far out of the reach of almost anyone in their early twenties, it's basically offensive.

Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video from Friday 26 March.

Made in Italy

  • 2 stars
  • 2020
  • Italy, UK
  • 1h 33min
  • 15
  • Directed by: James D'Arcy
  • Written by: James D'Arcy
  • Cast: Liam Neeson, Micheál Richardson, Valeria Bilello, Lindsay Duncan

Robert (Liam Neeson) and his estranged son Jack (Micheál Richardson) return to Italy, aiming to sell a villa they inherited from Robert's late wife. Hoping for a quick sale, they instead find it in a state of disrepair and are quickly out of their depth. Calling in the help of the locals, they begin to mend the home and…