Bellissimo, Bellissimo. What a beautiful way to headline the upcoming Lavazza Italian Film Festival with the very first Italian-Australian co-production feature film. The Space Between highlights a strong debut for director Ruth Borgobello and sets the scene for falling in love with luscious Italian landscapes and enchanting stories to come.
Having moved back to his hometown, Udine in Northern Italy, 35-year-old Marco (Flavio Parenti) has returned to look after his aging father and numb the loss of his mother. In spite of being a talented chef, he now works in a dispirited job as a factory worker and is comfortable being uncomfortable. Marco soon encounters a young Australian in Olivia (Maeve Dermody), whose youthful exuberance wistfully begins to stir life once more in the ex-chef. Slowly but surely, a deeper friendship grows and both begin to realize what it takes to bridge the gap between loss and love and to intersect the void of reality to connect our dreams.
Whilst being somewhat of a simple story to tell, it thankfully still managed to both shock and surprise me. Events occur that are best experienced without the knowledge of online spoilers and which are central to the themes at hand. The process of learning how to deal with loss and to move on to achieving our dreams is an issue in the heart of most films but one that is dealt a fresh setting in The Space Between. Borgobello cleverly uses the specific location of Italy, to relay a subtle cultural commentary on the state of matters, portraying how the Italian people are suffering in similar fashions to Marco. This is what elevates it above the cliché’ theme presented, as its truly refreshing to see it in a new environment and to explore a culture that otherwise may have gone unnoticed to the world.
As a love story, it’s not as witty or captivating as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy, however, it still remains charming enough to watch. Flavio and Maeve bounce off each other nicely, with particular praises going to the way Borgobello has written their dialogue. I thoroughly enjoyed how real each character felt and in the way, they interacted with each other. They were a few times in which I thought a certain line felt off or how a particular conflict seemed forced instead of being developed naturally but overall the plot was a joy to watch. It’s one of the more authentic love stories I’ve seen recently and one I want to know more about by the time the credits begin to roll.
After speaking with the director and thinking about the film after seeing it, the more I enjoy the underlying ideas it provokes. It seems almost universal the connections Borgobello wants us to view and I for one can’t stop thinking about how bridging those gaps between loss and love are witnessed constantly in my life. A simple but beautiful story, that echoes in the fine cinematography of the Italian landscapes by Katie Milwright, and a perfect start to your Italian film festival watch list.