Mambo Italiano

Movie Review by Dan Spiers

Starring: Luke Kirby, Ginette Reno, Stephanie Vecchio, Claudia Ferri, Peter Miller, Sophie Lorain
Director: emile Gaudreault

Set in Montreal, MAMBO ITALIANO is a relentlessly bright and surprisingly funny exploration of the migrant Italian family and more specifically the love that dare not speak its name: homosexuality.

Angelo Barberini (Luke Kirby) is gay, of that he has no doubt, but he remains locked in a closet lovingly tended to by his parents, Gino (Paul Sorvino) and Maria (Ginette Rino), and an Italian community dominated by Catholic guilt and rampant machismo.

Within the same household lives Angelo’s sister, Anna (Claudia Ferri), who, like her brother, is searching for somebody to love and indeed a role that is not determined by her parents and their antiquated value system.

Whilst Anna rushes from shrink to shrink (never, it has to be said, the same one twice) in search of answers, Angelo does what no good Italian boy should and moves out of the parental home before death or marriage have given his parents the opportunity to justify his relocation.

Though in shock, Angelo’s parents are assuaged by the discovery that he is moving in with an old school friend, Nino (Peter Miller), who happens to be a policeman and unbeknownst to them happens to be gay. A relationship ensues and inevitably the families of both men discover the truth and struggle to come to terms with it.

There is clearly nothing new here, indeed one could easily criticise yet more cloying, Italian mothers and stoic, Italian fathers, but the colour scheme of the movie is emblematic, for what abounds beside oranges, reds and yellows, are not stereotypes, but a genuine sense of warmth for the characters and community. Rather like in MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, faults are affectionately rendered rather than the product of lazy half-truths.

And so despite Gino and Maria spending the entire movie manipulating their children, despite allowing their familial relations to be disabled by pride, and despite their attempt to regain self respect by insisting their son is the giver rather than receiver of man-love, they remain endearing. For it is clear, irrespective of what is said and done, that eventually, all will be well. There is simply too much love fluttering around.

Emile Gaudreault has directed an uplifting movie that explores identity, sexuality and the complexities of family. In doing so it manages to tread familiar cinematic ground without being trite, is touching yet not over-sentimental and manages to address the difficulties of being a migrant Italian parent, a gay single Italian-Canadian son, and a straight single Italian-Canadian daughter. And that’s a lot of difficulties. Throughout all of them, MAMBO ITALIANO remains a delight, and hey, any movie that features ‘cannelloni and mortal sin activity’ is all right by me.

4 out of 6 stars