Say It In My Own Words (Dillo Con Parole Mie)

Lee Marshall in Rome

Dir: Daniele Luchetti. Italy. 2003. 108mins

Daniele Luchetti scored a minor hit in 1995 with the classroom comedy drama La Scuola and followed it with the intermittently interesting Piccoli Maestri (1998), about a group of students caught up in the Italian wartime resistance movement. Five years on, you might reasonably expect him to have graduated, but Say It In My Own Words, a lightweight, bi-generational summer comedy set on the Greek island of Ios, is a return to kindergarten. More a between-projects divertissement than a serious directorial statement, the film lurches alarmingly into the territory occupied by the innuendo-packed Christmas comedies of Massimo Boldi and Cristian De Sica. It has been given a medium 120-screen roll-out by distributor Medusa, but its first weekend results were disappointing, with a low $1,590 (E1,473) screen average for a total take of $190,755 from the 74% of screens monitored by Cinetel.

Comely Rome bookshop-owner Stefania (Stefania Montorsi, who also co-scripted) has just split up with her boyfriend Andrea, an indecisive, unreliable Adonis who, at the age of 30, still has a joint bank account with his mother. Brooding over the question of whether he left her or she left him, Stefania is distracted by the arrival of her 14-year-old niece Megghy, who has bunked off her summer scout camp in order to find herself and lose her virginity.

Megghy, unfortunately, is as stridently adolescent as her name suggests, with a voice like chalk on a blackboard. It is difficult to see why her smart, urbane aunt would warm to her, and still more difficult to understand why she would agree to accompany her to Ios, the 'island of love', where the presence of Andrea - unbeknown to aunt or niece - is the comic motor that propels the rest of the plot.

Greece is represented by a white-washed taverna and the bus for the beach; otherwise, Ios could be anywhere on the InterRailer's Mediterranean summer map, with streams of alcohol compensating for the island's shortage of fresh water. Paolo Carnera's sun-soaked photography is pleasant enough, but it hardly makes up for the forced acting, especially in the more emotional scenes between aunt and niece, which look like they are from the local amateur dramatics society.

Stylish modern full-screen captions and cut-in scenes in which genuine Ios backpackers introduce themselves contribute little to the exercise, which is lifted only by a fine soundtrack, mixing original ethno-jazz compositions with African classics. A brief citation of Eric Rohmer's L'Ami De Mon Amie would have been better avoided, as it only shows up the gulf that lies between this strident and laboured film about love's obstacles and the French master's Comedies And Proverbs series.

Prod co: StudioCanal Urania
Medusa, Telepiu
Int'l sales:
Adriana Chiesa
Conchita Airoldi
Ivan Cotroneo, Stefania Montorsi, Luchetti
Paolo Carnera
Prod des:
Giancarlo Basili
Angelo Nicolini
Gianfranco Salvatore, Danilo Cherni
Main cast:
Stefania Montorsi, Giampaolo Morelli, Martina Merlino, Alberto Cucca, Marco Piras