Nick Mancuso is Guido, a linguistics professor who believes that language is the heart and soul of cultural life. He learns more about his own Italian heritage when, as per his father’s last request, he jets off to Italy to spread the old man’s ashes in a Sicilian lemon grove. The seemingly solemn but simple job is made difficult by his prying Zio Vincenzo (Burt ‘Paulie from “Rocky”’ Young) who takes step to prevent Guido from completing the job. Turns out the grove is sacred ground and at the centre of a family dispute. As Guido, accompanied by the ghost of his late father (Charly Chiarelli), navigates his way to the lemon grove—meeting a famous actress Maria Miosogno (Rossella Brescia) along the way—he gets a lesson in who he really is.
Director Dale Hildebrand (who co-wrote the script with Charly Chiarelli) goes heavy with the broad humour, peppering the movie with over-the-top scenes that veer into stereotypical slapstick. Mancuso, best known for serious roles, applies a light touch here, mugging for the camera. There are several genuinely amusing moments but many are marred by the film’s fourth wall breaking style—tell a joke, explain the joke directly to camera. It feels stagey, as though this may have worked as a theatrical performance for Chiarelli who is best known as a storyteller specializing in one person shows.
“Road to the Lemon Grove” is hammier than the local Prosciutto shop but Hildebrand, who is also a cinematographer, has made an undeniably nice looking movie that could double for a Sicilian tourist bureau video. The beautiful scenery may entertain the eye and the film’s nostalgic sense of the importance of family and their sacrifices, though under developed, should resonate with anyone whose forebearers searched for a better life in a new country.