Genova (2008) starring Colin Firth, Catherine Keener, Willa Holland, Perla Haney-Jardine, Hope Davis directed by Michael Winterbottom Movie Review

Genova (2008)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Colin Firth in Genova

A New Life in Genova

"Genova" is most certainly not your normal sort of movie and as such when you are accustomed to mainstream movies its hard work. The reason being is that "Genova" is a movie about life and in particular the period after the death of a loved one. It's not dressed up in any real way, although it has a couple of dramatic moments, and its focus is on delivering the bare almost stark reality of life.

5 months after the death of his wife, Joe (Colin Firth - Mamma Mia!) and his two daughters Kelly (Willa Holland) and Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine - Untraceable) decide to leave Chicago and head off to Genova where he has secured a years work as a lecturer in the hope that being in another country will help them all come to terms with their loss. Whilst Mary struggles the most with letting go of her mother, Kelly finds fun with some local teenage boys whilst Joe gets plenty of attention from one of his students.

Perla Haney-Jardine and Colin Firth in Genova

For me I found "Genova" hard work because of its stripped bare focus on reality and because let's be honest real life is for the most dull. The fact that the focus of the movie is a widowed husband and his two children starting a new in Genova whilst still coming to terms with a death fails to make it any the more appetising or interesting. As such what we get are a lot of situations surrounding a single dad and his daughters, the youngest still struggling to come to terms with her mother's death, the other older sister wanting to break free from family life and the father trying to hold everything together. It's almost familiar as other movies have tackled similar issues, but there is no gloss, no embellishment what we see is raw real life.

I say it's not embellished but there are a couple of dramatic moments, one where we witness the build up to the fatal crash which killed Joe's wife and one surrounding Mary going walk abouts. And thankfully there are these couple of dramatic moments because without them "Genova" would have crawled along at one humdrum level. That may sound a bit harsh but for me the emotion of grieving and moving on with life, which is what "Genova" is all about is lost in its life laid bare approach. I'm sure for some who can connect with the storyline will find it both emotional and tender but it left me emotionless.

What is strange, and maybe I missed the point, but we have this family trio relocating to "Genova" a place which is stunning yet the picture director Michael Winterbottom paints is of a city full of dirty back alleys and strange characters. It just doesn't feel right although saying that it adds to the whole bleakness of life only brightened by the occasional train journey to the beach.

But having said all this there is one really standout aspect to "Genova" and that is Perla Haney-Jardine as the youngest daughter Mary. The script calls on her to be the most visible when it comes to grieving and she delivers this impeccably especially when she screams and cries for her mother whilst trying to sleep. It is heart breaking and real watching this young girl in distress and it's such a convincing performance from Perla Haney-Jardine that it is frightening. And it's not just the scenes of distress where she excels but also when she walks the streets alone, slight nervy of all those around her.

Aside from Jardine the performances are frankly much of a much ness. Colin Firth is solid but for the most unmemorable as Joe and Willa Holland emotes all the emotions of a typical teenager as Kelly, wanting to enjoy life and young boys yet again isn't overly memorable. And to add to this is Catherine Keener as there friend Barbara who does deliver a performance which shows the awkwardness of someone trying to be there for a grieving family but yet again it's not memorable. And that is for the most the big thing about "Genova" it's unmemorable.

What this all boils down to is that for me "Genova" is dull because it's a movie so closely connected to reality that nothing really happens. For some the artistic direction and camera work, as well as the rawness of the story will wow, but for me it left me feeling empty as I was waiting for something interesting to happen rather than just one facet of real life after another.