It Was the Son Review

Billed as a farcical opera, I walked into the London Film Festival commandeered Haymarket cinema with high expectations.

Nestled in this opulent hall, I was fully wiling to be transfixed and transported away to a wonderful world of operatic indulgence.

Less than twenty minutes in and those reviewers around me were flying their seats, like crows off to find a fresher carcass at the London Film Festival.

Directed by Daniele Cipri, It Was the Son tells the tale of the Ciraulo family from Palermo.

Narrated by Busa, an old man who’s waiting to pay the electricity bill in a local depot, we hear him tell anyone who’ll listen fabulous stories about unexpected circumstances.

Ignored by most, it’s only when a young man sits down next to Busa that he launches into his most fantastical tale of all.

We begin with how the Ciraulo men make a living, by stripping old ships for any valuable metals. It’s not long before they stop for lunch and look to relax in the afternoon sun, as is the European way, before belting out a beautiful operatic number.

Suddenly, in true musical tradition, we’re transported to a world of rich baritones and transfixing tenors.

Busa’s story then jumps forward in time to the apartment block where the Ciraulo family lives, and the many women who spend their day cleaning, cooking and tending to domestic life.

When a lack of water leaves them all gasping to cool down, the familial clan head to the beach along with their neighbours to relax in the sun and surf.

As many a youngest daughter before and after her, Serenella proves to be particularly stubborn when it’s time to go home and it takes plenty of convincing before she finally agrees.

Annoyed with her, the Ciraulo women folk let Serenella run off to play with her friends as soon as they get back.

And in true opera tradition, she’s tragically gunned down by two strange men who botch their hit of a handsome Ciraulo cousin they were supposed to whack.

Devastated at first, the family soon perk up when they discover families of people killed by the mob are entitled to government pay-outs.

Promised 220 million lire by the powers that be, the once despondent family begin to live life large even before they’ve received the money since everyone in town knows of their impending wealth and are more than willing to offer them huge lines of credit.

When the money fails to come in, the Ciraulos become even more desperate and turn to a creepy moneylender who, for an unspecified fee, promises to help them with their plight.

It Was the Son fails for two reasons; first, it lets go of its operatic roots pretty much straight after the first sequence and then it fails to engage the viewer in any meaningful way.

Granted, it can be read as a statement on greed, grief and capitalism, but its overblown style and cinematography distance the viewer from the plot.

The characters are un-relatable, and the scenes where they’re deciding to buy a luxury car really push the audiences’ interest past breaking point.

Whilst Cipri has tried to embrace his Italian heritage by channelling that unique Fellini style of grotesquely depicting humanity, he falls short and continues on its clunky way towards an unexceptional conclusion.

Shelton Lindsay

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Dates ‘n stuff

November 2012