Film Review: Lost in Florence

Dull, slow-moving film about a young man in Florence trying to find himself.
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While vacationing in Florence with his girlfriend Colleen (Emily Atack), Eric Lombard (Brett Dalton), who fancies himself a romantic, proposes to her following an elaborate treasure hunt he has set up with lots of clues tossed in along the way. The engagement ring is the treasure. It’s already foolish. Who can blame her for turning him down? She tells him he’s not mature, stable or committed to an adult career, and so she returns to the States.

Eric immediately applies to law school, though his passion is football. He is confused and devastated. He hangs out with his cousin Anna (Stana Katic of “Castle” fame), now living in Italy with her Italian husband Gianni (Marco Bonini), who introduces him to Calcio Storico, an ancient sport accompanied with much fanfare and played every summer in Florence. Combing elements of rugby and street fighting, the game is a major tourist attraction and the whole city has a stake in the team winning the annual match.

Eric is drawn to the sport immediately and tries out for the lineup. He is a natural and has found his niche, though the locals are less than enthusiastic because he is not Italian. But thanks to his prowess on the field, he finally wins them over. At the same time, he is drawn to Stefania (Alessandra Mastronardi), the girlfriend of his teammate Paolo (Alessandro Preziosi). A hot romance ensues, at which point Colleen surfaces, now willing to marry Eric if he heads home with her. Decisions need to be made.

Lost in Florence is as dreary as it sounds. Lines like “Do what your heart tells you,”  “Things don’t happen without a reason” and “If you want to build something new, go somewhere else” don’t help.

But my favorite exchange occurs shortly after Eric has confessed his transgression to Paolo. “You need to hit me,” he says. Paolo punches Eric in the face. Eric drops to the ground, clutching his bruised cheek. A moment later, he’s on his feet, facing Paolo. The playing field has been leveled and it’s man-to-man time. “Now we can play a final game,” he asserts. They have bonded. Their common enemy is the adversarial team.

Writer-director Evan Oppenheimer says a central narrative element is the conflict between a romantic involvement and friendship. If those relationships are at odds, where does one’s loyalty lie? It’s a potentially thoughtful question but one never really explored here. He also cites the influence of such films as A Room with a View, Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love, suggesting that in each instance Florence—as literal place and metaphor—plays a transforming role. Admittedly, here too the shots of Florence—from cityscapes to those focused on food and drink—are wonderfully vivid. The pageantry and procession surrounding the game, complete with costumed marchers, cannons and a white bull, are also memorable.  Kudos to cinematographer Gherardo Gossi.

But unlike the protagonists in the aforementioned films, Eric does not evolve in any interesting way, if at all, and so the backdrop is simply a backdrop, beautiful though it is.

Katic, Mastronardi, Preziosi and Bonini are committed to their roles and give it their best shots, while Dalton, who is most known for his stint on the TV show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” seems wooden. He should have passed on this one. So should the ticket-buying public.

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