In some ways A Summer in Genoa was fairly like Grace is Gone which starred John Cusack as a father who together with his two children have to figure out life after the death of his wife. Here, Colin Firth plays the role of dad, who decided to uproot his family of daughters Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine) and Kelly (Willa Holland) from Chicago to Genoa in order to start their lives anew, which gives rise to plenty of touristy moments as they settle down in a new environment and get to learn a little bit about the culture of the Italians before they assimilate right in, not that we get to learn a lot anyway.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, this film presented what would be a one month snapshot of the lives of three characters each affected quite differently with the passing of a loved one. Made even more poignant is that one of them was directly responsible for the death in the family, in an opening scene that you are probably going to cringe with cinematic premonition that something untoward would happen, since there were plenty of visual and aural clues on how it would all eventually pan out. But the snapshot presented was really slight in nature, having its characters fall into stereotypes, while the narrative shifts gear into the morose and flatlines almost throughout its entire run time.
Colin Firth could play Joe with his eyes closed, being the dad whose new stint in a school brings him attention in the form of female students, as well as a friend from the past (Catherine Keener) who had helped him and his family in their initial settling down, providing that potential romantic interest that didn't develop much. The most Joe had to do is to appease youngest daughter Mary, the baby of the family, who suffers from constant nightmares about that fateful night with her mom.
Willa Holland as the teenage daughter Kelly expectedly falls into the rebellious phase as she lusts after the attention showered unto her from many hot blooded Italian men, with the usual flings you'd come to expect from a title like that. The only depth to her character comes from the very testy relationship formed with her younger sister, where in front of their father she plays the angel, but in his absence becomes the bully not pulling her weight in the discharge of her responsibilities.
Perla Haney-Jardine though probably was the star of the show, stealing the thunder from everyone with her performance that requires to showcase a range of emotions, and by and large her character here may have resembled the little kid in Millions who possessed a vivid imagination. Hope Davis enjoyed limited screen time in the film, but her scenes opposite Hope Davis were probably the best in the storyline that required to tread upon the supernatural, though more Casper than creepy, personifying how one grasps onto treasured memories with the reluctance to let go.
Don't expect any major breakthroughs or moments with deeper meanings, though it had one harrowing scene that reminded me of how horrible traffic in Italy could be, and their scooters that weave in and out of small lanes, where a map is probably useless since the streets have no signages. It certainly brought back some of my own wonderful experience in the country, that the most this film had done, is to rekindle that interest to go travelling and tour more Italian towns.