A Summer In Genoa (2009)




Critic Consensus: Michael Winterbottom's tale of grief and mourning, though frustrating in places, is intelligent filmmaking with superb central performances.

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Movie Info

In the wake of a family tragedy, an English ex-patriot living in the United States decides to relocate himself and his daughters to Italy, only to discover that grief has followed them overseas when the youngest girl proves unable to move past her acute emotional pain. An Englishman at heart, Joe (Colin Firth) now lives a happy life with his wife and daughters in the United States. Their happy existence is turned upside down in an instant, however, when his wife is driving their daughters home one day and becomes momentarily distracted from the road. Later, as Joe and his daughters attempt to contend with the thick fog of grief hanging over their household, the loving father surmises that a change of scenery may be in order; accepting a teaching job in Italy in hopes that it will help them contend with their bereavement. For teenage daughter Kelly (Willa Holland), at least, the move works miracles: though Kelly was sullen and withdrawn back home, she seems awakened by the endless possibilities that the future may hold in Europe - even entering into a clandestine romance with a handsome Italian boy. Kelly's younger sister Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine), unfortunately, is another case entirely. Despite her father's most valiant efforts to assuage her grief, Mary just doesn't seem capable of shaking the loss. Meanwhile, as Joe rekindles an old friendship with a university colleague (Catherine Keener), his family soaks in the marvelous medley of medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary influences of the scenic, northern Italian city.
R (for language, some sexuality and drug use)
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Hope Davis
as Marianne
Dante Ciari
as Fabio
Gabriella Santinelli
as Danny's Wife
Kerry Shale
as Stephen
Sara Stewart
as Susanna
Trevor White
as Michael
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Critic Reviews for A Summer In Genoa

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (2)

A delightful sojourn for one indie filmmaker and his cast and crew in a fascinating old Italian town.

Full Review… | November 1, 2009
MovieTime, ABC Radio National
Top Critic

Genova conveys its strongest themes through insinuation, and modulates its shifting moods through Winterbottom's precisely calibrated DV processing.

Full Review… | September 1, 2009
Top Critic

It can be to mix a strange city with devastating loss. It's at once a deeply sad film and a deeply truthful and optimistic one.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Time Out
Top Critic

You know a movie like this is working when it holds you tight and nervous in every moment, even when very little is happening.

Full Review… | May 19, 2010

Whether you go with this idea might depend on how many times you've seen it before, in sentimental American films. The fact that the film is more artful doesn't make the ghost of the mother less of a cliche.

Full Review… | November 5, 2009
Sydney Morning Herald

Genova fails to provide the view with much that is satisfying and instead accomplishes only a superficial examination of grief and the way people respond.

Full Review… | November 5, 2009
Courier Mail (Australia)

Audience Reviews for A Summer In Genoa


After the traumatic loss of their mother, the family of three move to Italy to escape their depression. The film is full of emotion as the family tries to cope with their new lives in Italy and sometimes a lot of tension is brought out. The straightforward story is decent and and the quality of performances are quite good. Despite the simplicity of the plot and story, the film still sustains substance and the value of moving on in life.

Shawn Ewing
Shawn Ewing

Super Reviewer

Directed (and co-wrote screenplay) by Michael Winterbottom, Revolution Films, 2008. Starring Colin Firth, Catherine Keener, Perla Haney-Jardine, Willa Holland and Hope Davis. Genre: Drama, Romance. Question: What haunts you? Keeps you up at night? Or wakes you up in a cold sweat? Makes you see things that aren't really there? Forces you to take paths you have no idea where they lead? What if you were 9 years-old; how would you handle all that haunts you? I just finished another movie on Netflix instant play: A Summer in Genoa and I almost don't know how to write this review. The movie didn't have a lot to say but then again it said so much, in such a subtle way, that I don't think most will like this film. However, I enjoyed it. And, of course, I will tell you why. One word: real. Everything in this film was real: the acting, which it didn't seem like anyone was acting actually. It was just so natural. Plus, you feel like you are right there in the story. Sure it jumps from scene to scene but you catch up with no problem because of the effortless way everyone, including the children in the film, performed. There was not one iota of "acting" that I could witness. No blocking, no overly rehearsed speeches, or forced responses. It almost gave me shivers. Another thing that I kept noticing because it is something I always look for: how it is filmed - the cinematography. As I said, you felt like you were right there and the way it was shot you could almost smell the Italian air. The story appeared so genuine that you didn't question the one thing that couldn't be real. (No, I am not going to tell you what that is.) I mean nothing seemed too out of there; nothing really out of the ordinary, besides one small detail; and I have no idea how a producer read the script and said, 'Oh this story is so brilliantly real! It must be made!" In fact, I have a feeling the script was a very boring read so that is why this was independently produced. A Summer in Genoa stars Colin Firth, who is a father to two daughters and he moves them to Italy after a family tragedy. Was it the best idea? Uprooting the girls and going to a foreign country for a year, would that help them process what haunts them? Well, you will just have to see for yourself. In fact, you have to watch the youngest girl, Mary, (played by Perla Haney-Jardine), to fully understand the story. She was fantastic in this role and it was not an easy role to play eloquently but she did. Above, the genre states it is a drama and a romance. I am not quite sure I would call it a romance though. However, drama is pretty much spot on, but mix in a little mystery, and I think that would describe this movie better. I know I am remaining vague with this review but there is little to tell about the story without giving much away. This is a movie you need to think about; it does not give you all the answers and you must be willing to contemplate what can truly haunt a person and how they process it. My favorite thing: As I said, how real, authentic everything was portrayed. My least favorite: It was a tiny bit slow, and I have watched so many movies that I kept guessing at things and ended up being wrong...okay, maybe I kinda of liked that too. Rating: R Length: 94 minutes Review: 6 out of 10

Tired of Previews
Tired of Previews

Super Reviewer


Five months after the death of his wife(Hope Davis), Joe(Colin Firth) takes his daughters Mary(Perla Haney-Jardine) and Kelly(Willa Holland) to live in Genoa for a year from Chicago for a change of scenery and so they do not have to suffer through another disappointing Cubs season.(Sorry, couldn't resist but would not have to if they had hired Ryne Sandberg when they had the chance.) While there, he gets reacquainted with Barbara(Catherine Keener), an old college friend, while arranging for his daughters to take piano lessons to give their lives structure and to torment the local population when he is teaching classes. Of the peculiar sub-sub-genre of widowed fathers who raise their children in an exotic environment that includes "The Boys Are Back" and "The Descendants," "A Summer in Genoa" is perhaps the best, not only for Colin Firth's finely controlled performance, but also due to its ambiguous tone, thanks to the skills of director Michael Winterbottom(who also has writing and editing credits.). The beautiful and venerable city of Genoa is a worthy co-star as its winding streets are basked in shadows, making it hard for newcomers like this family to find their way, separating them until their plotlines converge in the hectic climax. In the city, churches are visited, a reminder of Italy being a deeply Catholic country, allowing for a subtle examination of guilt. And I appreciate the history lessons, by the way.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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