The Salt of Life follows Gianni (played by the director, Di Gregorio) in his fruitless pursuit of romance. Forced to retire in his fifties and living in marriage devoid of passion, his life seems to have lost purpose. He is at the beck and call of his elderly mother (the brilliantly cast, Valeria De Franciscis), who leads a comparatively decadent existence, wilfully unaware of Gianni’s fiscal troubles. With the encouragement of his lawyer friend, Alfonso, we accompany Gianni as he encounters the temptations of one beautiful woman after another.
The dry humour and focus on relationships, feels akin to a Woody Allen film. Though, if Allen had been in control of our hero’s fortunes, I’m sure he would have a lot more luck. In some ways this film also feels oddly British; in Gianni’s awkward behaviour, his polite frustration and in the film’s subtle, understated humour.
But we are in Rome, which provides a stunning setting; piazzas, markets and drinking wine on the balcony complete the romantic Italian scene. The camerawork is often static, and occasionally seems handheld, following the character’s daily activities. The picture also features some strikingly beautiful shots.
The film establishes a clear distinction between the young and old. Feeling very middle-aged, at times Gianni finds himself surrounded by partying, carefree teenagers and beautiful young women who depressingly see him as a grandfather figure. Although his leather-faced mother is a generation above, one of her friends’ flirty behaviour towards Gianni provides a painful reminder that they are not too distant in age.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of viewing Di Gregorio’s previous offering, Mid-August Lunch, don’t fear, for this isn’t necessary for enjoying the sequel. The Salt of Life is a standalone film in which new and familiar characters are well established. It felt notable that the audience spends the entire film with Ginanni; he is in every scene. This adds a touching, humane quality and builds a strong empathetic solidarity. He is very kind-natured and charming and you do find yourself rooting for him. The Salt of Life is a bittersweet, often melancholic, comedy and thoroughly pleasant to watch.
Lucy Pickering is a Front of House assistant at Phoenix Square and Media Officer at Curve theatre. In addition to film and theatre her loves include music, cycling and gingerbread.