When you hear that there’s a film about wine and Italy, you’d expect it to be filled with stunning visuals of the romantic countryside. After all, any movie that’s set in what is arguably the most beautiful country on Earth should milk the location for all its worth. That’s not the case with “From the Vine,” a pleasant little diversion from screenwriter Willem Wennekers (based on the novel by Kenneth Canio Cancellara) and director Sean Cisterna. Those expecting an eye-popping travelogue will be disappointed, but those looking for an old-fashioned, feel-good story should be pleased.
Marco (Joe Pantoliano) is an executive for a Canadian car company who quits on a whim after his green energy proposals are shelved. Marco decides he needs a change, so he buys one way, first class plane tickets to go back to the small Italian village where he grew up, Acerenza. His wife Marina (Wendy Crewson) and adult daughter Laura (Paula Brancati) think he’s gone crazy, taking his midlife crisis to the extreme. While hanging out on his late Grandfather’s farm, Marco decides to restart the vineyard from years ago and try his hand at making wine and finding happiness.
Cisterna throws in some strange fantasy bits that blend visions, dreams, and flashbacks into Marco’s reality, including surreal elements like moving statues that come to life and grape vines that talk to him. It’s weird, and feels distinctively European.
The dated storytelling is so traditional and predictable that it’s hard to stay engaged with the characters. The target audience seems to be senior citizens or those easily distracted (the characters often repeat the important points in a scene so inattentive viewers don’t miss something crucial to the story). The plot is simple, really: business man has midlife crisis, flees to his homeland, finds his purpose, yadda yadda yadda, everyone lives happily ever after.
“From the Vine” is one of those casual movies where you should pop open a bottle of wine and watch, especially if you’ve ever spent any amount of time in the small towns of Italy. The film captures the feel of the hillside villages perfectly, and travelers will relate to that part of the narrative. Others will adore the sweet, sentimental, and structured storytelling that offers no unpleasant surprises.