When Canadian CEO Marco Gentile (Joe Pantoliano) has a breakdown at work, he impulsively books a one way plane ticket to the Italian village of Acerenza, from where he emigrated as a child. There, he is reunited with his exuberant police officer cousin Luca (Marco Leonardi) and rediscovers his grandfather’s old vineyard, which has been abandoned for many years. After going to Confession, Marco decides to use the vineyard to start up his own wine-making business that will help the local community as well as himself. However, when Marco’s wife Marina (Wendy Crewson) and estranged daughter Laura (Paula Brancati) come to Acerenza with the intention of getting him to come back to Canada, Marco is torn between his more profitable and established old life and his new-found rediscovery of his roots.
Director Cisterna mostly plays things safe, utilising somewhat cliched and twee imagery of Marco’s ancestral village that bears more than a passing resemblance to the iconography of European-set ‘Oscar bait’ of the 1990s and 2000s (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Chocolat). Cobbled streets, mischievous schoolkids, and eccentric locals are all in abundance when Marco arrives, with the expected culture clashes between him and said locals playing out as expected.
Similarly, Marco’s decision to renovate his grandfather’s old vineyard and start up his own wine-making business hits all of the classic narrative tropes expected from this kind of film, with writers Kenneth Canio Cancellara and Willem Wennekers ensuring that Marco undergoes a smooth character arc from CEO undergoing a midlife crisis to winemaker who has rediscovered his heritage. The only stylistic variations seem somewhat ill-advised, including talking vine leaves, CGI sentient statues and flashbacks to Marco’s previous job that take place during his time in Acerenza.
Whilst this approach isn’t the most original and could be argued to be highly derivative, the main performances are what help make the whole thing work. Pantoliano, often cast in memorable supporting roles, proves himself as an effective lead with his performance, effectively conveying both Marco’s insecurity with his old corporate life and his new-found sense of purpose as he throws himself headfirst into the world of wine-making.
Providing ample support are Leonardi, Crewson and Brancati, who essay their respective roles with ease. Leonardi provides much-needed comic relief as Luca as he helps to rally the villagers around Marco, whilst Crewson acts as a voice of reason who eventually comes round to her husband’s seemingly-crazy idea after a grape-filled lovemaking session. Brancati is given a slightly meatier role as Laura, with her initial rocky relationship with her dad giving way to a more conventional romantic one with Gio (Franco Lo Presti). Both Brancati and Lo Presti share an undeniable chemistry that overcomes the somewhat cliched scripting of their relationship.
Overall, From the Vine doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to the story it’s telling, but the direction, screenplay and ensemble performances are all equally solid and come together effectively to create a heart-warming story about one man’s personal journey. The overall result is a film that works as cosy, turn-your-brain-off entertainment for the undemanding viewer that makes full advantage of its generic familiarity.
Available On-demand now