Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Hope Davis, Colin Firth and Catherine Keener
Distributor: Palace Films
Runtime: 94 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Mature themes and coarse language

There are so many films that don’t leap off the advertisement as ‘must see’ but, if you happen into them or, later, see them on television or rent them, you are glad that you did. Not everyone will like them. It depends on interests and moods. Genova is one of those films. I am glad I saw it.

The Genova of the title is indeed the city anglicised as Genoa. It is not the most beautiful of Italian cities but it has a great deal of history (Columbus, trade…) and atmosphere. By the end of the film, we do feel that we have visited and lived in the city for a while and have a feel for it and the surrounding sea and beaches and mountains.

Michael Winterbottom makes all kinds of genre films (political like The Road to Guantanomo, In This World), dramas (Wonderland), classic comedy (A Cock and Bull Story). This time it is a family drama.

When the mother (Hope Davis) is killed in a car accident, the father (Colin Firth) decides to take his two daughters from Chicago to Genova where he will lecture at the university, with the help of an old friend (Catherine Keener) and the two girls will go to school there.

There is a lot of edginess because the younger daughter blames herself for her mother’s death and suffers from nightmares and sees her mother sometimes in the streets. The older daughter blames her sister and is at that precocious teen age where she wants to be with boys, lies to her father and pressurises her sister to conceal her behaviour. Father and daughters are still grieving and, despite counselling, have not come to terms at all with their mother’s death and absence. Genova is both a welcoming city for them to make a new start but the camera keeps reminding us that it can also be sinister, with its narrow alleys and darkness where people can get lost.

Colin Firth has one of his better roles. Catherine Keener is always good. The two girls, however, are very real. Willa Raymond is the pretty, pouting and wilful teenager and Perla Haney-Jardine is a strong screen presence and communicates her fears, her guilty feelings, he nightmares and her sobs most convincingly.

Most audiences will be able to identify with the situations and find a character that they empathise with and understand.

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