Something You Said Last Night review Pat Byrne
Something You Said Last Night – UK Premiere
Glasgow Film Festival 2023
Luis De Filippis’ film, which won Toronto International Film Festival’ (TIFF) Next Wave’s Change Maker Award, in recognition of films that elevate voices and issues of social change, is a joyful and insightful movie where we join a Canadian/Italian family on a week’s holiday at a lakeside resort.
The family is made up of the energetic and bossy matriarch, Mona (Ramona Milano), the less colourful but affectionate dad, Guido (Joe Parro), Renata (Carmen Madonia, the older sister and transgender woman and her young sister, the rebellious Siena (Paige Evans).
The car ride to their holiday destination immediately introduces us to the family dynamic with Mona and Guido giving an enthusiastic rendition of an Italian pop song with their long-suffering daughters in the back seat make amused eye contact.
The four are thrown together in cramped accommodation, which much to Mona’s chagrin, and Guido’s apparent incompetence, does not have a lakeside view. There is no chance of peace nor privacy with the sisters sharing a pull down bed in the living/kitchen and Mona constantly issuing orders interspersed with kisses she plants on her daughters’ heads. She urges them to phone their Nona, cajoles them into taking photographs and always wants to know where they have been. Milano plays the role of the exuberant, overprotective mum to perfection.
It’s acknowledged that Renata is the main focus of her attention, however, the fact that she is transgender appears to be less of a worry than how her work is going and whether she can afford to live outwith the family home. The intimacy between mother and daughter is tangible and particularly well caught in tender scenes where Renata helps Mona fix her hair.
Both the sisters are struggling with issues that they want to keep from their parents – Renata has been fired and Sienna wants to drop out of school. They share these concerns but also hold them over each other. Between petty squabbling and lashing out there is also shared humour and filial affection. Anger is followed by forgiveness, even when Renata smashes Siena’s phone. Although Siena is happy to ditch her sister to spend her evenings with a local boy, Renata covers up for her and comes to her rescue when Siena gets drunk. The actors do well portraying the sisters’ close, albeit, troubled relationship.
The family members all have hang ups – Mona finds it hard to cope with anxiety when she doesn’t hear from Sienna for hours, Guido is hurt by the likeness Renata draws of him and the sisters resent their mother’s constant interference and her attempts to control their lives. Renata is furious when she goes to the aid of a small child and her mother interferes in a belligerent manner. But despite all the bickering the family is endearing. You cannot help but love Mona, overflowing with life, love and dissatisfaction and De Filippis skilfully captures the complexities of family relationships.
It’s a confident and well made film with some interesting and atmospheric cinematography with quiet and close shots and silence contrasting with energetic action.
It is unusual in its approach and Renata being a transgender woman does not define the character but neither is the matter shied away from and we are required to consider acceptance and prejudice. When a young man she has previously met makes advances towards Renata, explaining that he had been worried about what his friends would think, she is not the victim and deals with him with some humour and aplomb. When her mother asks her if she wants her to accompany her to the toilet – presumably the Ladies – many in a Scottish audience may dwell on an issue raised by some objecting to the Gender Recognition Bill.
The film is seen mainly from Renata’s perspective and is based on De Filippis’ own experience. Her direction is skilful as she captures the love and tenderness the family shares amid their battle grounds and a story is told of a trans woman where the focus is not on transgender.
Luis De Filippis made her TIFF debut in 2017 with the short film ‘For Nonna Anna’, which won several prizes including the Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival. With her first full length film, apart from TIFF’s Next Wave’s Change Maker Award, there is every chance ‘Something You Said Last Night’ will be further acclaimed. It’s an excellent movie.
Pat Byrne, March 2023
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