It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The three happiest men in Gianni's world in "The Salt of Life," are no doubt the three old timers who sit all day every day on plastic chairs lined up in front of a cafe in Rome and chat endlessly. There's also the old dude who walks his toy poodle, "a beautiful dog." Certainly Gianni's best friend Alfonso is unhappy, despite his tireless quest for women a third his age. Least happy of all is Gianni, who lacks the will to stop looking, and the nerve to begin.
Gianni (Gianni Di Gregorio, the film's director) is 60. The most notable features on his careworn face are the bags under his eyes. He lives in a spacious apartment with his wife, daughter and his daughter's boyfriend, Michelangelo, who talks with him more than the other two combined. On the ground floor of his building lives the cheerful Aylin (Aylin Prandi), who pretends to be madly in love with him. He walks her St. Bernard and his own inconspicuous family dog, whose breed he doesn't even know or care about.
The bane of his existence is his 90-ish mother (Valeria De Franciscis), deeply tanned no doubt from the many poker games she plays with her peers in the garden of her luxurious house. She has all the money. Gianni lives on a pension and his wife's income, and grits his teeth as his mother serves champagne to her poker buddies and buys designer gowns for her caregiver. His marriage is peaceful and his wife affectionate but seems focused elsewhere. It is probably an omen for the daughter's boyfriend that he spends so much time with his future father-in-law commiserating about the women in the family.
One look at Gianni's mother's caregiver, and Alfonso can't believe Gianni isn't carrying on with her. Gianni's only response is the body language for "meh." His carrying-on days are over. But he begins to be persuaded by Alfonso that 60 is too young to retire completely from the chase. "The Salt of Life" tells his story in an affectionate, low-key way, not as a smutty sex com but as a gentle look at a harmless man who realizes he has become invisible, except to people who need something from him. His mother, for example, needs him to come over twice in the same day to adjust the TV set.
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