Geneva Anderson digs into art

film review: SFFS New Italian Cinema In “18 Years Later” (18 anni dopo), two estranged brothers embark on an Italian road trip in a classic Morgan to lay dad’s ashes to rest

A scene from Edoardo Leo's "18 YEARS LATER," screening Thursday 11/18 and Sunday 11/21 at New Italian Cinema at Landmark's Embarcadero Center Cinema. Photo: SFFS.

This year’s New Italian Cinema series, November 14-21, 2010, at Landmark’s Embarcadero Cinemas, by the San Francisco Film Society  and Istituto Italiano di Cultura di San Francisco showcases new films by seven emerging young Italian filmmakers, most of whom you’ve probably never heard of but all of whom will be making personal appearances at their screenings to discuss their work.  The annual mini-festival is sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society  and Istituto Italiano di Cultura di San Francisco highlights new trends in Italian cinema.  Established director Turkish-born Ferzan Ozpetek was honored at the series’ opening night last Sunday with a screening of his new film “Loose Cannons” and a retrospective of three of his classics which screened on Sunday and Monday.  Paolo Verzi closes the festival this Sunday, November 21, with “The First Beautiful Thing,” Italy’s official submission for the foreign-language Oscar. 

Being a European vintage car buff and an Italian film aficionado, Edoardo Leo’s “18 Years Later” (18 anni dopo) stood out in the program as a potential gem—showcasing a gorgeous vintage Morgan 4+ or 4-4 roadster in classic British racing green and a road trip through the Italian countryside–a journey that stands to reunite two estranged brothers.  The film screens this Thursday and Sunday.  If you are a car buff, this finicky Morgan will keep you entertained.  And even if  you can’t tell a Morgan from a Fiat Dino, the film  is definitely worth seeing for the touching tale it weaves about a broken family.   Its members have suppressed the truth and their feelings for so long that they each have became stuck in toxic patterns that have drained them and those around them of life.   When a tragedy occurs, the added grief is nearly insurmountable.

Italian brothers Mirko (director Edoardo Leo) and Genziano (co-writer Marco Bonini) haven’t spoken since their mother died 18 years ago in a car accident.  Genziano moved to London after the accident and buried himself in work–becoming a successful merchant banker.  Sweet stammering Mirko stayed at home in Rome helping out in the family’s auto repair garage until he lost sight of himself, got swallowed up in debt and faces losing his wife who sees him as a shadow of the man he once was.   His speech impediment seems directly related to his repressed emotions.

When their father dies, Genziano returns to Rome for a 24 hour visit and spends most of his time on his iphone orchestrating a complex futures sale that is to go through the moment he returns to London.  He is nervous, distracted, unable and unwilling to connect emotionally with the family he left behind years ago.  

When Mirko discovers that their father’s last wish was to have his ashes put to rest beside those of their mother in Calabria some 300 miles away, and that the two brothers are to accomplish this delivery in the Morgan roadster in which their mother mysteriously died, he is beside himself.   He also learns that their father secretly rebuilt the wrecked Morgan and stored it in the garage awaiting his death when it instead could have been sold to get the family out of hock.   

Barely speaking, the two brothers reluctantly embark on their journey with their dad’s ashes in the back seat.  Predictably, they experience a number of setbacks—including encountering a pretty hitchhiker who manages to break their silence, a breakdown, and losing the Morgan and their dad’s ashes. 

There is comic relief at the film’s midpoint when the two brothers are forced to hitchhike and encounter all sorts of characters and situations that bring them together.

The car carries as much symbolic weight in the film as the actors.  It knows the truth about the past but cannot speak it and suffers a breakdown that sets the stage for the truth to surface.   Why an Italian would buy a Morgan, over a classic Italian car  in the first place is a puzzler, but it seems the father and mother lived in London at one point and were wealthy enough to buy the luxury British roadster and returned to Rome to raise their family and brought the car with them. 

In terms of Morgan design features that figure in the film’s plot—the convertible requires a good half hour of wrangling to get its top erected, which involves manually attaching a canvas roof cover to a metal frame and then positioning that frame over the car—an awful task in the rain. It’s even more terrible for two brothers who aren’t speaking and who are transporting dad’s remains in a not so leak-proof ash tray in the back seat.  That the electrical system implodes on this first long run in years is almost a given. Morgans are notoriously finicky.   This sets the stage for stuttering Mirko to shine as he uses his mechanical skills to finesse some bastard repairs while the impatient financial whiz Genziano appears useless.    

Sabrina Impacciatore shines as Mirella and Gabriele Ferzetti as her father-in-law in Edoardo Leo’s “18 Years Later,” playing at New Italian Cinema, November 14-21, 2010 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center. Photo: SFFS.

A subplots unfolds in Rome involving their grandfather, played wonderfully by Gabriele Ferzetti, who reveals what he knows about his daughter’s death to Mirella (Sabrina Impacciatore), Mirko’s loyal but very frustrated wife.   She is biding the time that Mirko is away by sorting through old photos, looking for clues as to how her husband–silent about the past–arrived at his sorry state.

The ending is magical, proving there no one who knows you like a brother who is near your age and who you have grown up with.  This is a slow-paced film that rests on the solid acting of Leo and Bonini who initially seem as different as night and day but sink into their roles credibly as the film progresses. 

108 minutes, in Italian with English subtitles

Director: Edoardo Leo

Producers: Guido De Angelis, Nicola De Angelis, Marco De Angelis for DAP Italy

Writers: Edoardo Leo, Marco Bonini, Lucilla Schiaffino,

Cast: Edoardo Leo, Marco Bonini, Sabrina Impacciatore, Eugenia Costantini, Gabriele Ferzetti, Tommaso Olivieri, Vinicio Marchioni,

Part of New Italian Cinema, November 14-21, 2010, sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society and the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.  Guest appearance of Director Edoardo Leo. 

Screens: Thursday, November 18, 6:00 pm & Sunday, November 21, 3:00 pm,  Landmark’s Embarcadero Cinema.  Tickets: $12.50,

November 17, 2010 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment