A sweet-natured, bittersweet little movie—and I mean little—about growing old, Gianni Di Gregorio’s The Salt of Life is a kind of sequel to his somewhat sweeter, but equally small-scale Mid-August Lunch (2008), which played here almost exactly two years ago—and which few people actually saw. I say it’s a “kind of sequel,” because although Di Gregorio plays essentially the same character, Valeria De Franciscis still plays his mother, and Alfonso Santagata shows up again, the characters and situations have changed considerably. As a result, it not only doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the first film, it might save a degree of confusion if you haven’t.
The film is a simple affair. Forced into early retirement, Gianni, his wife (Elisabetta Piccolimini) and daughter (played by Di Gregorio’s own daughter, Teresa) live on his pension and his wife’s income. Neither of the women pay much attention to him—in fact, he has more interaction with his daughter’s unemployed boyfriend (Michaelangelo Ciminale), who seems to more or less live there, too. His wife does find him useful for errands, though she’s not always happy with his efficiency in these tasks. The real bane of his existence, though, is his 90-odd-year-old mother, who is quickly frittering away the family money and calling him for “emergencies”—like serving lunch to her and her poker buddies or jiggling the TV connection to fix the picture.
But Gianni seems more or less content—until his friend Alfonso (Alfonso Santagata) starts pushing him into looking for some kind of girlfriend. At that point, the idea of such a woman becomes Gianni’s obsession, which launches the film in the direction of broader comedy by depicting Gianni’s efforts at realizing that dream. Not surprisingly—especially given that most of his targets are much younger than he—this doesn’t go so well. At bottom, the whole affair comes down to the realization that getting old pretty much sucks—something I knew without the movie. But the movie treats it with such a light, sweet touch—and an improbable use of the Pixie’s “Here Comes You Man” that oughtn’t work, but does—that it goes down pleasantly. Not rated, but probably in the PG-13 realm.