If Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had a show together, they would be the American equivalent of Salvatore Ficarra and Valentino Picone. Known in their native Italy for their political commentary done in a flawlessly humorous manner, these two bring their unique sort of satire to the big screen in their comedy Back to the Nest (Andiamo a quel paese).
The movie tells the story of Salvo and his best friend Valentino who leave their beloved adopted home town of Palermo to move back home to the their tiny Sicilian village which is crowded with the elderly enjoying an eventless life living off their pensions. Having been unemployed for two years thanks to Italy’s awful economy, Salvo comes up with the bright idea of having all of their elderly relatives move in with them so he can use their hefty pensions to support himself and his family. The plan goes well until the elderly begin dying off sending Salvo into a panic and desperately trying to come up with a new plan that will get him some money. His solution is for Valentino to marry the last elderly woman living with them: his Aunt Lucia. Cue the manic hilarity of a small-town as they learn of this scandalous union.
Ficarra and Picone have made a hilarious commentary on a society that has dug itself into an unsustainable economy and the drastic and selfish lengths that people will take to satisfy their personal desires. Salvo is wildly self-involved and though he purports to do everything in order to support his family, his unethical ideas and disregard for the feelings of his best friend make that difficult to believe.
The film also comments on the hilarious gossip-mongering that small towns are notorious for and the variety of hypocrisy that comes along with humanity, regardless of the setting. Aunt Lucia’s nephew, Carmelo has been taking advantage of her pension until Salvo convinces her to move with him. Unbeknownst to her, Salvo has the same intentions, but is far more suave about it and thus better able to manipulate Lucia. Resenting having lost his steady stream of free income, Carmelo runs to get the police involved in order to ensure that if he can’t get Aunt Lucia’s pension, then no one else can either.
Aunt Lucia’s marriage to Valentino is a source of massive gossip, with everyone telling the two that they were wrong to do it. People tell Lucia that she is too old for a man so young and that’s it’s inappropriate, to which Lucia basically tells everyone to go to hell because she doesn’t give a damn. She doesn’t love Valentino and the entire marriage is a farce, but she likes the idea of being the object of the affection for a younger man and likes Valentino’s actions of devotion (which include serenading her and buying her gifts) and isn’t afraid to revel in it.
When the local priest, who is the harshest on Lucia for her decision to marry Valentino, publicly tells her what she’s doing is blasphemous and embarrassing, she assures him that she won’t be darkening the doorways of his church with her supposed blasphemy. Standing behind her decision and refusing to be shamed by a narrow-minded community, Lucia is the strongest person in the movie for it takes massive courage to proudly go against the grain in a highly judgmental community where everyone knows everyone else’s business.
Back to the Nest (Andiamo a quel paese) pokes fun at everything that is wrong with society — and shows that these problems are similar throughout the world. It illustrates the disturbing incestuousness of small towns and the narrow-minded views they can harbour. It pokes fun at the ridiculousness of the sort of people who have nothing to do with their lives other than obsess about others, at those who are so self involved that they are comically sad and at the illogical standards we set for each other and the crucifixion we endure when we fail to live up to them. Back to the Nest (Andiamo a quel paese) is one of those perfect little comedies that does satire properly by punching up and revealing the ridiculousness of oppressors while simultaneously reminding us that this is often our reality.
Back to the Nest (Andiamo a quel paese) screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 12 @ 8:45pm, Colossus Vaughan on June 13 @ 7:00pm, Cinema Cartier Quebec City on June 13 @ 8:30pm, June 14 @ 3:30pm and June 17 @ 8:30pm, Cinematheque Montreal on June 17 @ 9:00pm, and Cinema Guzzo Montreal on June 18 @ 9:15pm.
Sarah is covering the Italian Contemporary Film Festival which runs in Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City from June 11-19. For more festival coverage, click here!