Film review: Genova (2008), directed by Michael Winterbottom
Genova begins with a mother (Hope Davis) driving with her two daughters on a wintery road. They’re playing a guessing game. The younger daughter does something extremely stupid, which causes a car crash in which the mother dies.
Five months later, the father of the family, Joe (Colin Firth), takes the daughters to Genova in Italy, where he’s going to be a university lecturer. He has an old friend there, Barbara (Catherine Keener), who helps them settle in.
They might have moved to a different continent, but they haven’t escaped their grief. Youngest daughter Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine) still wakes up crying hysterically after her mother and grumpy teenager Kelly (Willa Holland) takes to exploring her sexuality with a local boy.
And that’s about it.
The info button said it was a “supernatural drama”, and considering it stars Colin Firth, it was a no-brainer – it had to be watched. But it’s not a supernatural drama, so I’m a bit disappointed. It’s a moving film about a family trying to overcome their grief for their mother/wife. That Mary is guilt-ridden (as well she should be) and probably just hallucinates seeing and talking to her mum isn’t supernatural, it’s just sad. The guessing game at the beginning, surely that’s supernatural? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t class the whole film thus based on a couple of minutes at the beginning of the story.
They do their final part of the journey to Italy on a Ryanair flight, which a part of me found incredibly amusing, as I’m sure it will anyone familiar with the airline in question.
Genova is a quiet, low-key film with lovely shots of Italy. The sun is shining, it looks lovely, and there’s an Italian student who sounds eerily like someone I know. There’s plenty of walking around the narrow, old streets and getting lost in the labyrinthine street layout, but no one so much as jumps out of the shadows shouting “BOO!” and I kept waiting to hear a crate of bottles being moved every time Mary was walking around the back streets.
It’s a nice enough film, but feels at times more like a documentary, and not a lot happens. And when it does it’s because kids are being kids and they go do their own thing, much to the chagrin of everyone else.
Superbly acted by the two girls, perhaps more so for the younger one, and Firth? Well, if he was the father of your children, you could rest easy. What a great dad. So yes, sort of enjoyable but don’t expect a lot of things to happen, and don’t expect anything supernatural – just a full-on human drama. It’s not the sort of film where you enthusiastically munch through popcorn.
The kids, though grieving, annoyed me, and it was generally a bit too bloody depressing for my taste. Not a bad film, though, by all means. It’s very good, I just didn’t love it.
3.9 out of 5 scooters.