In an effort to emulate the frustration of family road trips, Venice Calling probably got too close and just became frustrating. This was meant to be a delightful romp looking at first love, which it just about is, but doesn’t go through hard or far or exciting enough with its vacation humour or family drama, it just seems complacent at its mediocre level.
Emile (Helie Thonnat) meets Pauline (Luna Lou) at school and then, very quickly and suddenly, they become good friends. Emile wants to take the relationship further, but he’s embarrassed by his bohemian parents: his organic vegetable farmer/deliverer mother Annie (Valérie Bonneton) and his financially struggling door-to-door security salesman Bernard (Benoît Poelvoorde). But they dotingly love him, at times to an overbearing level.
Pauline lives in a starkly opposite family situation – her parents are incredibly wealthy, but emotionally detached from her, and so this contrast is played up for an obvious life lesson. Emile agrees to see her at a concert recital in Venice, and so begins a lengthy family road trip, where the annoyance of the family never translates to much humour for the audience.
Venice Calling is never quite hilarious, at its best it can be amusing, and at its worst it’s downright irritating – a good example of that is the dad’s singing, which will cement itself in your head and irritate you for weeks. It has its funny moments here and there, but the overall arc of Emile reaching a realisation about his parents through seeing how different they are to Pauline’s is not only predictable, it doesn’t even reach a satisfying zenith.
Venice Calling is an earnest attempt at being a delightful film about young love and family bonding, but it barely attempts to be anything more than standard, as much of it has been done before. The parents seem annoying and overbearing, but not annoying or overbearing enough to really make you feel for Emile, and his love for Pauline is likewise similarly unsubstantiated. With a premise and with themes that have been addressed by less mediocre films before, Venice Calling had more of a right to push for something special.
Venice Calling plays at UWA Somerville from Monday, January 20 – Saturday, January 25, 8pm, & Sunday, January 26, 8:30pm.