Italy, 1956. In the picturesque island of Amatrello, a unique custom keeps the young men of the village busy: when a girl turns eighteen, every boy is invited to bring a gift for her first date. However the gift is not for the girl, but for the father... who will ultimately determine which boy takes her on her first rendez-vous! Eighteen-year-old fisherman's son Marcello doesn't care about this tradition until he sets eyes on the enchanting Elena, the daughter of the Mayor, who has returned to the island and - according to the tradition - has come of age. As time runs out and competition rises, Marcello comes up with the perfect gift for the Mayor. But getting that gift isn't easy... Soon, he is forced to barter with the entire village, as everyone seems to want something from someone else... Marcello's frantic quest ensues, evolving into a process of reconciliation among the village's inhabitants.Written by
I saw this last month at the 2009 Palm Springs International Film Festival and of the 36 films I saw there this is my number one favorite. This is a delightful romantic comedy, light on the romance although it's what drives the story and heavy on the comedy which is plentiful and cleverly paced and delivered. The cast is outstanding and large with many memorable characters. The film is set in 1956 on the Italian island town of Amatrello. Marcello (Francisco Mistichelli) is the son of the poor fisherman (Antonio Pennarella) Mariano who has raised Marcello on his own after his wife walked out on him. Marchello is to graduate from school with honors and has a chance to take an exam to get into a university with a scholarship and off the island. Elena (Elena Cucci) is the daughter of the town mayor Del Ponte (Mariano Rigillo), the island villages most important man. Elena left the village as a child but is now 18 and has returned. The island custom is a strange but long-lived one in which when a girl comes of age at 18 she is eligible for her first date and traditionally the first date becomes the boy she will marry. The first date is selected by the boys who are her suitors bringing gifts to the girl's father. The father choose the date based on the quality of the gifts he receives and the suitor who brings the gift that pleases him the most gets the date with his daughter. Marcello doesn't like this custom but must play by the rules to try to win Elena who is instantly smitten with upon seeing her for the first time. Marcello, as a poor boy has two problems; his social status and how to get a gift that will please Elena's father. He comes up with a cheap and simple plan but the plan and the obtaining the gift soon becomes more and more elaborate due to circumstances beyond his control. From director Denis Rabaglia this is a fable-like masterpiece that's whimsical, fast paced, and full of delightful surprises and charming characters and smart comedy. Not only a stellar cast but excellent cinematography from Filip Zumbrunn, editing from Claudio Di Mauro and wonderful job by the production design,set decoration and costume teams. Basd on the novel by Mark David Haywood who also wrote the screenplay this is a must see that I would highly recommend and give a 10 out of 10.
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