Review: Adriatico My Love (2011)
Editor’s Notes: Adriatico My Love opens Friday July 19th at Carlton Cinemas.
Early on in Adriatico My Love cooking show host Alex (Valerie Buhagiar) is told her latest episode is making people laugh, and not in a good way. Alex responds that the segment was meant to be funny, and is rebuffed again. Undeterred by the criticism, and the cancellation of her show that follows, she decides, apropos of nothing, to travel with her daughter Lucy (Dorian Kolinas) to an island in the Adriatic to produce an episode of television that will convince the network to take her back, and to complete some unfinished business.
In many ways, Adriatico My Love is that episode of television, and director Nikola Curcin is Alex. There’s an earnestness to the film that can’t be deterred, and a sense that nothing would stop Curcin hangs over the proceedings. This is a small, low-budget movie with modest ambitions and a simple, straightforward narrative. Yet for all its admirable intentions, the film just doesn’t pan out.
This is a small, low-budget movie with modest ambitions and a simple, straightforward narrative. Yet for all its admirable intentions, the film just doesn’t pan out.
Narratively, there’s nothing you haven’t seen before here. Alex and her daughter have a strained relationship the film doesn’t bother to explore unless the two are fighting for reasons that never bother to coalesce. Lucy, ostensibly at least college aged (it’s never clear, though it seems she is around 25), acts like a poorly written version of a petulant teenager, and the film’s attempts at shading here either come off as mismatched or painfully on the nose. Alex is harboring a secret so broadly telegraphed, she might as well shout it into the camera every time she tries to come out with it. The other characters in the film are paper-thin, and it quickly becomes apparent they aren’t people so much as plot contrivances. Virtually every character that is introduced will further the film’s plot in pretty much exactly the way you would guess, and when they go further, it is usually to absurd results. Adriatico My Love is at its most jarring when its clear the script needs to get somewhere, and fast, so a character just says or does exactly what is necessary to move things there, without any preamble or build-up. There’s an attempt to enliven Lucy’s romantic subplot in the most formulaic way possible, and it’s almost admirable how bluntly the film approaches the conflict. There’s no ramp up, not even any real explanation of who the other characters that involve themselves might be; things happen, and we can discern what they are mostly because we’ve seen them a million times before.
There’s a scene in which Alex teaches Lucy some tricks of the cinematic trade, simple things like where to aim the camera and how to pan, yet as the movie went on, I found myself wondering whether the director was revealing every trick of the trade he possessed. This is Curcin’s third film over twenty-five years, but there’s an almost complete absence of style here. If the show Alex spends the film producing had this much directorial personality, I would change the channel. The camera doesn’t engage, it simply follows. The film takes a flat, bland, observational approach that is directly at odds with the melodramatic plotting, which is in turn at odds with the playful, frenetic score.
What sort of film Adriatico My Love thinks it is never becomes clear. There’s too light a touch for this to work as a drama; for it to be a comedy, it would need to boast a single laugh.
What sort of film Adriatico My Love thinks it is never becomes clear. There’s too light a touch for this to work as a drama; for it to be a comedy, it would need to boast a single laugh. It lacks the detail of a well-observed slice of life, or the depth of the affecting melodrama about family and love found abroad it occasionally seems to be attempting. As it stands, this is a sort of weightless dramedy. Things happen, but they are all so predictable and uninteresting, it becomes impossible to ever be invested, and it’s often hard to tell if anyone involved is either.
The film ends with a series of nonsensical, barely connected scenes that feel trimmed down from actual, meaningful exchanges to their scarcely intelligible present states (at one point, I found myself thinking “how did all of these characters get there, and what are they doing now that they have arrived?”). It is completely disorienting and, I fear, completely unintentional.
Adriatico My Love is a mess of a movie, but it is ultimately hard to hate. The story is a cliche, and the screenplay never colors it in with any sort of detail. The direction is anonymous, the performances wooden, and the editing serviceable until the disastrous final ten minutes. Yet in spite of it all, the film soldiers on. Like its central character, it continues in the face of laughter, disdain, and abject failure. I can’t recommend Adriatico My Love, but it would be a lie to say I don’t respect it a little bit for trying.