Italian for Beginners (2000)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Romantic Comedy  |   Release Date - Jan 18, 2002 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - Denmark , Sweden   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Sarah Sloboda

In a strange series of events, six people find themselves intermingling, while simultaneously, their lives begin to change for the better. Coincidence? Italian for Beginners does not presume to say, although it certainly makes a case for downplaying the cause-and-effect relationship. More about the effects, than of any particular cause, the film celebrates life's odd way of connecting people and one's ability to enjoy life more when there are people with whom one can celebrate. As the characters grow into complicated relations with one another, we see they are able to thrive as individuals once their lives have begun to intertwine. An overwhelming discussion of love exists in this film, although each love story is unique in its conditions, and the performances of which are executed with varying levels of passion. For instance, the love between the hairdresser and the jerk is incredibly sexual and intense, while the love between the pastor and the klutz is much more subtle and sweet. Perhaps the least explored example of love in this film exists between the beautiful Italian girl and the quiet older Jorgen Mortensen. While the passion, and even connection between the characters is less convincing, the idea is clearly the representation of a yet another, different kind of love. Also dealing with death in a realistic way, the film incorporates serious and contemplative life issues, while maintaining a lighthearted distance. In fact, it's the pastor who provides some of the film's best laughs. While stylistic decisions, including steadicam operation and choppy and erratic editing, detract slightly from an otherwise straightforward drama, there are some modern themes that date the film more specifically with the Dogme 95-inspired style of shooting and montage. Italian for Beginners provides a contemplative and subtle way of appreciating everyday triumphs and trials -- with the emphasis on triumphs.