“From the Vine” breathes the same fragrant air as “Under the Tuscan Sun,” “A Good Year” and any number of other movies that offer up beautiful scenery and a stripped-down way of life as a tonic for the soul.
In a rare leading role Joe Pantoliano stars as Marco Gentile, an Italian born CEO of a Canadian automobile company. He’s at a crossroads in his life. Tired of the grind and troubled by an unkept promise he made years ago, he throws it all away. Without consulting his wife Marina (Wendy Crewson) he quits his high-paying job and makes a plan to hightail it to the tiny town of Acerenza, site of his grandfather’s old vineyard in Italy. There he hopes to reconnect to a way of life that will help him find his centre and regain his moral compass. But will his new beginning spell an end to old relationships?
There is a sense of déjà vu that comes along with watching “From the Vine.” Like the movies I mentioned above, it’s a beautifully shot travelogue with that follows a familiar path. Adding some spark are engaging performances from the cast.
Pantoliano plays Marco as a man having an extreme mid-life crisis, but it’s not about buying a Maserati or trading in his starter wife for someone younger. He’s having an actual existential crisis brought on by the realization that the life he leads isn’t the life he wants. To illustrate his dilemma director Sean Cisterna adds in a few surreal Felliniesque flourishes, but the heart of the character comes from Pantoliano’s rough-hewn charm.
As Marco’s long-suffering wife, Crewson brings warmth and a considerable amount of heart.
“From the Vine” doesn’t add anything new to the soul-searching travelogue genre but the point of these movies is not to reinvent the wheel. Like rom coms, the most formulaic variety of mass entertainment there is, it’s about the journey not the individual stops along the way. Sure, the story is predictable but it exudes good vibes and tries to appeal to our better natures and these days maybe that’s enough.