From the Vine

by Toby Woollaston

Verdict: Very far from a full-bodied drop but still inoffensively quaffable.

Joe Pantoliano has been put out to pasture, quite literally, in this film about finding yourself in rural Italy. Pantoliano, who contorted our minds in Christopher Nolan’s Memento, double-crossed us in The Matrix, and ran with the mob in The Sopranos, is now making wine in the idyllic Italian town of Acerenza. Yep, Pantoliano’s career arc has a familiar ring to it; quality actor hits retirement age and is shoe-horned into a “twilight-years film”. Think Diane Keaton, Bill Nighy, and, well, pretty much the entire cast of Marigold Hotel. But there is something endearing about the “find yourself in retirement” flick that has struck a notable chord with its audience—so much that it’s pretty much become a genre in its own right and From the Vine has set down roots firmly at its centre.

Based on a Kenneth C. Cancellara’s book Finding Marco, the film tells the story of Marco Gentile, a high-flying executive from Toronto who abruptly ups-sticks and moves to Italy to tend to his late grandfather’s derelict vineyard. Spurred on by the nostalgia of his upbringing and the callous nature of his job, Marco’s late-life crisis hits fever pitch where, among the sun-dappled vines, he attempts to atone for the environmentally destructive nature of the company he once worked for by reviving the old vineyard.

With its locale centric plot and testing moral ramifications, I had hoped to be treated to some raw Italian neo-realism (I think some of the film’s marketing even suggests this). But From the Vine couldn’t be further from it, instead opting for an easily digestible feel-good vibe that unapologetically goes down like a bargain-priced red. The treacly cinematography shows off the rural Italian landscape with all the dreaminess of a travel brochure—perhaps not what we need in this non-tourist era, but it’s undeniably beautiful to look at.

Director Sean Cisterna, whose back-catalogue includes other syrupy sentimental films as Kiss and Cry, seems comfortably at home here. And despite never fully exploring its themes and containing more cliches than a cheap wine label, From the Vine does have its heart in the right place. It also provides the perfect chance for Pantoliano (who is easily the best thing about the film) to dip his toes into the acting-retirement-village pool. Come on in Joe, the water is tepid.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.