Liam Neeson and son Micheal Richardson 'catalyse tepid screen chemistry' in melancholic drama Made in Italy

Made In Italy: Liam Neeson as Robert Foster and Micheal Richardson as Jack Foster
Damon Smith

MADE IN ITALY (12, 93 mins) Drama/Comedy/Romance. Liam Neeson, Micheal Richardson, Valeria Bilello, Lindsay Duncan, Yolanda Kettle, Helena Antonio. Director: James D'Arcy.

Released: March 26 (streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime Video)

MORE than a decade after Liam Neeson privately mourned the death of actress wife Natasha Richardson in a skiing accident, art mimics heartbreaking life in Made In Italy.

The directorial debut of actor James D'Arcy casts the towering Co Antrim action man as a taciturn widower crippled by grief opposite his real-life eldest son, Micheal.

Any ghoulish fascination derived from watching a proud patriarch sift through the tangled emotional wreckage of an accident decades after the fact with his child – "You can't remember and I can't forget" – is quickly supplanted by crushing disappointment.

D'Arcy's script trades in ramshackle cliches rather than piercing psychological insight and a rundown Italian villa is employed as a heavy-handed metaphor for the men's disintegrating relationship.

Neeson deftly navigates his character's maelstrom of feelings but Richardson can't match the heavy lifting, which is achingly apparent in the film's centrepiece where father and son break down with juddering sobs in each other's arms.

Contrivance and familiar dramatic devices facilitate a tear-filled reconciliation against a ravishing backdrop of sun-kissed hills and a picturesque town square that conjure fonder memories of expeditions to A Year In Provence, Cinema Paradiso and Call Me By Your Name.

You'll wish you were there, not here.

Twenty-something Jack Foster (Richardson) is embroiled in an acrimonious split from his wife Ruth (Yolanda Kettle). She is frustrated by his purposeful delay to signing the divorce papers and retaliates by disclosing her parents intend to sell the London art gallery that he manages.

"The gallery is my life. I've put everything into it!" pleads Jack. "Except money," she coldly retorts, giving him one month to meet the steep asking price.

Jack hastily organises a trip to Tuscany with his estranged painter father (Neeson) to sell the family's villa, which has lain dormant for 20 years since the death of his mother Raffaella (Helena Antonio).

A ramshackle road trip to "cheer the place up a bit, get it sold" becomes an extended odyssey of self-healing when Jack discovers the bucolic hillside retreat has fallen into ruination.

Local estate agent Kate (Lindsay Duncan) demands urgent repairs so father and son roll up their sleeves with Tuscan tradesmen, punctuated by fiery exchanges about Jack's faltering ambition: "Those who can, do; those who can't, run their wife's gallery."

Perchance, restaurant owner Natalia (Valeria Bilello) can salve a son's broken heart.

Blessed with picture postcard locations, Made In Italy is easy on the eye but far less generous to the heart.

Neeson and Richardson catalyse tepid screen chemistry, slaves to an uneven script which slaloms between broad physical comedy, cloying romance and bellowing rage.

Duncan's fleeting appearances as a purse-lipped realtor add welcome dashes of acidity and spice to an otherwise bland stew.

RATING: 5/10

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