Jack is someone who doesn’t know how to properly grieve. He never learned how to process his mother’s death when she died in a car wreck when he was 7, and he isn’t sure how to process his wife’s sudden decision to get a divorce.
What he does know is that he doesn’t want to lose the art gallery that he’s been managing for his in-laws for the past several years. Unlike his brooding dad, Robert (a very talented painter who sent Jack off to boarding school after his mom’s death), Jack isn’t an artist. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t good at selling art.
But he might not have a choice. Jack’s soon-to-be former in-laws don’t want him managing their gallery. In fact, they’d just as soon sell it to the highest bidder. Which gives Jack an idea: What if he bought the gallery?
True, he isn’t exactly rolling in cash, but he does own a house in Italy—albeit with his father. Nobody’s lived in it since his mom died, and with its great views of the Tuscan countryside (although you could hardly call “one of the most spectacular convergences of nature ever”, according to Robert, just a view), it could certainly sell for more than enough to buy the gallery.
There’s just two problems. One, Robert doesn’t want to sell the house. And two, even if he did, he’s let it fall into complete disarray.
Jack and Robert have a very strained relationship. It began after Jack’s mom died. Robert believed the best way to help his son get over his grief was to remove anything that reminded Jack of her: photo albums, toys, even dishes. Until finally, Robert decided that even his own presence served as too much of a reminder of what Jack lost, and he sent Jack off to boarding school.
Of course, this type of separation had many negative effects. For one, while Robert doesn’t seem to be able to forget his beloved wife, Jack can’t seem to remember anything about her. For another, Jack grew up believing that his dad was selfish and unimpressed by his son.
Upon returning to Italy to prepare their family home to possibly sell it, Jack’s opinions of Robert are only confirmed as he sees the house’s decrepit state as a reflection of how little Robert cared for his family. However, he eventually learns that the neglect stemmed from Robert’s own grief (partially because he blames himself for his wife’s death). And while Jack believed that his father pushed him away for selfish reasons, he learns that Robert did it out of love—a misguided effort to make life easier for Jack.
While these realizations aren’t enough to heal 15 years’ worth of neglect and grief, it does start the process of rebuilding the father and son’s relationship—especially since Robert apologizes for his mistakes. It allows Jack to start forgiving his dad and to open up to him about his divorce (which he had previously lied about). And it helps both men to finally process the grief they’ve been repressing since Jack’s mom died.
Jack forms a friendship (and eventually a romance) with a woman named Natalia, who helps facilitate healthy conversations between Jack and Robert about their grief. Natalia is a divorced single mom who has a difficult relationship with her daughter’s father. But Natalia keeps the peace with her ex for her daughter’s sake, always putting the needs of the girl before her own.
Jack learns that his wife’s desire to divorce isn’t malicious and that she even tried to protect him from the pressure he felt to please his dad. And while it’s certainly not positive that he agrees to go through with the divorce, they do so on amicable terms.
Robert hurts a woman’s feeling when he gets her name wrong multiple times. However, he learns from his mistakes and later corrects another man when he gets someone else’s name wrong. Someone says that disappointment is an absolute certainty but how you come back from it is romance.
Someone says, “Thank God.” We hear a reference to Jesus and his 12 disciples. A woman says that a house has powerful ley lines (supposedly powerful lines drawn between points around the globe that course with supernatural energy). She also thinks it’s a bad sign when black paint gets on her white dress since it stands for fear and darkness.
Jack and Natalia kiss. A couple kisses at dinner. We see Robert in his underwear and a robe. Some women wear clothes that show their midriffs and cleavage. We see Jack wrapped in a towel. A woman leaves Robert’s house one morning, implying that they had sex the night before, and Jack later criticizes his dad’s lifestyle choices. A statue depicts the stylized form of a female body. Some pictures show a family in their swimsuits.
We learn about an extramarital affair that resulted in pregnancy. Someone asks if hentai manga is pornography. There is a reference to female genitals. A man says something is distinctly not a euphemism. Someone mentions the dating app Tinder. Robert flirts with several women.
The Tuscan house has a weasel infestation and after Jack locks one in a cabinet, he and Robert discuss how to trick another into committing suicide. Jack starts throwing things in an angry fit and Robert has to wrap his arms around him in a bear hug to stop him.
We hear the f-word 10 times and the s-word five times. The British expletive “bloody” is heard four times. We also hear one or two uses each of “a—,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “d–k,” “h—” and “pr–k.” God’s name is misused 10 times (once written in a subtitle), and Jesus’ name is abused once.
Jack and Natalia drink whiskey. People drink wine during meals. Natalia’s brother-in-law and Jack get drunk. People drink champagne at an art gallery. We see empty wine bottles and glasses in a few scenes. A man vapes.
A rude man insults Robert with the changes he plans to make to the villa—which includes painting over a mural that Robert painted to represent his sorrow after his wife died. A woman says that her husband told her he didn’t want kids until it was too late for her to have children anymore, then changed his mind.
Made in Italy, at first glance, could be mistaken as a funny film about a father and son restoring a house to sell it for a profit. However, as Jack says, “it was never about the money.” He just wanted a father, and that’s what this film really centers on.
But getting to that happy ending is heartbreaking to watch. We get a very real depiction of sudden loss and grief from Robert and Jack (played by real life father-son duo Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson).
Tragically, Neeson’s wife and Richardson’s mother, actress Natasha Richardson, really did die suddenly in a skiing accident back in 2009. According to ABC News, Neeson and Richardson agreed that Natasha was on their minds during filming.
“Sometimes it hurts and the pain is too much and your mind can go on autopilot and you push away because it hurts. That’s essentially what (my character) Jack did,” Richardson said. “The takeaway for me is nobody knows how to grieve but the best way to do it is by carrying your loved ones with you, not shutting them out. And honoring them and doing things in your life day to day that they would be proud for you to do.”
So while Made in Italy is rightfully rated R for its harsh language, it also teaches the importance of drawing closer to those you love through the pain of loss.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.