Connect with us


The Salt of Life | Review

Brings a Little Sweetness

Gianni de Gregorio’s The Salt of Life is a piece similar in scope and form to his first feature, the 2008 art house hit, Mid-August Lunch. But while returning cast members and tone correspond between the features, this is neither a continuation nor sequel (though the films feel a bit like first cousins). If Gregorio’s first exercise was an inconsequential yet pleasant Roman holiday, his latest effort carries a more substantial gravitas as it undramatically circulates around dissatisfaction with aging and the loss of virility.

We’re introduced to Gianni (de Gregorio), a retired husband and father in (waning) middle age. He’s rather distant from his wife (Elisabetta Piccolomini), his daughter’s in school (played by Gregorio’s real life daughter) and in the midst of a tempestuous relationship with a young man (Michelangelo Ciminiale) who spends more time at home with him than his own family. Not to mention, Gianni’s in the middle of trying to get Power of Attorney for his mother (Valeria de Franciscis) a nonagenarian that constantly calls on her dutiful son for a variety of tasks on a daily basis, even though she has a pert, young, and overpaid (Kristina Cepraga) Romanian nurse that could manage most of these tasks. However, Gianni is fascinated when he discovers that one of the older geriatrics (a member of the huddle of old men that graze continuously outside a neighborhood café) is having a torrid affair with a nearby shop owner. Convinced that time is passing quickly by, Gianni decides it’s time to embark on his own love affair—except that he can’t seem to find anyone to embark on one with him.

The appeal of The Salt of Life lies in Gregorio’s ability to imbue his film (like his previous feature) with an amusing sense of natural playfulness. Men and their mid-life crises foibles have been done to death and in every genre, but even though Gregorio might not be saying anything new, he certainly knows how to make an enjoyable, humorous film. As the hangdogged Gianni attempts to act on his love affair fantasies, we see he gravitates towards much younger, voluptuous women. From his harried party girl neighbor that unabashedly flirts with him so he’ll buy her groceries and walk her dog, to his mother’s ingénue nurse that tells him he’s like a grandpa, or the doppelganger blondes that his lawyer friend tries to hook him up with, it’s hard to feel bad for Gianni that none of these women take the bait. He’s an aged momma’s boy, who’s, frankly, unmotivated and lazy. He’s got no game. Even his attempt at reconnecting with a more age appropriate old flame (the gorgeous Valeria Cavalli) seems way out of league for Gianni. But as misguided as his attempts seem, there’s never a false moment, and more often than not, he’s also quite charming in his own way.

Overall, this droll slice of life film will especially delight fans of Gregorio’s first film. And once again, the best moments in this latest feature are between Gianni and Valeria de Franciscis, returning again to play his mother. Gregorio, previously a screenwriter (for 2008’s Gomorrah, no less) and assistant director on several films, clearly has a flair in front of and behind the camera. While his first two efforts are charming, it will be interesting to see how he could expand as a director.

Rating 3 stars

Continue Reading
You may also like...

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

Click to comment

More in Reviews

To Top