Director and Writer: Gianni De Gregoria
Starring: Gianni De Gregoria, Valeria De Francisis, Alfonso Santagata
March 17, 2010
75 minutes

At least some part of our evaluation of a movie depends on what expectations we had going into the theater. My expectations were fairly modest for Mid-August Lunch. I’d seen the trailers, saw it was only 75 minutes long, heard the director hired seniors at a nursing home to play the parts. And yet, like a light lunch at a charming restaurant you come upon serendipitously, the movie worked well because of this. Directed and starring, Gianni De Gregoria (screenwriter of Gomorrah), the film knew exactly what its aims were and stayed within the small world it introduced.

PLOT: Gianni (Gianni De Gregoria) is a middle-aged Italian caring for his extremely elderly mother (Valeria De Francisis) and is behind on fees for his condo. The condo owner, anxious to leave on Ferragasto, an Italian holiday, proposes the fees be forgotten if Gianni cares for his mother, too, over the holiday. He comes back with his mother and an aunt in tow. Another woman is also left in Gianni’s care. Gianni must cater to their diets, find places for each to sleep, negotiate their various needs. Despite some early tribulations, the four women have a Ferragasto to remember.

(De Gregoria revealed in an interview, he had not intended to play the lead in his film until he described the character to his crew: a middle age Italian, who lives with his mother, cooks and drinks to excess. Clearly it was a description of his own life so who else would play it better).

What makes Pranzo di ferragosto work so well is the completely natural performances of four women in their late eighties or nineties. De Gregoria is not afraid to look closely at their faces. He’s not afraid of allowing them to be the focus of the film. He knows his palette is a small one and paints accordingly.

Now I have given you high expectations. So try and bring them down a notch before looking for this film. If you do, you will find it charming, I think.


Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.