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Featured DVD Review: Ciao

April 8th, 2010

Ciao - Buy from Amazon

Ciao opened in limited release more than a year ago but struggled to find an audience, for a number of reasons. It is a niche market film, its reviews were weak, and the competition was strong. Now that it has reached the home market, will it be able to find a larger audience?

At the beginning of the movie, we briefly meet Mark, who is then promptly killed off screen in a car accident. His friend, Jeff, is tasked with going through his e-mail and telling all the people he was corresponding with about his tragic death. This includes Andrea, an Italian man with whom Mark was having an online romance. Before his death, Mark had invited Andrea to meet. On a whim, Jeff extends the same invitation. Once they meet, they develop a friendship that grows beyond the mutual acquaintance that brought them together.

There's really not much of a plot beyond that. There's a tragic set-up, the initial meeting, the growing friendship, and the question of whether or not anything more will come from it. How much you like this movie depends a lot on your tolerance for dialogue-heavy independent films that have a pace that can be described as either "deliberate" or "glacial". There's some good writing in this film and excellent performances from the two leads, as well as from Ethel Lung as Jeff's stepsister in a supporting role. However, while watching this film I couldn't help but think that this movie could have been edited down to a more effective 30 or 40-minute short. Or perhaps if the budget wasn't so limited, the film could have had a larger cast and a more open feel to it. Something to make it feel like it earned its running time more.

On a side note, there are times when Rotten Tomatoes' scoring system is unfair. I'm not insulting the website; after all, no system is perfect. Overall, I'm a huge fan. But in this instance the Tomatometer Score fails. Ciao earned a score of just 33% positive, which is terrible, especially for a limited release. However, nearly every review (even the negative ones) praised the acting and the writing. With a binary system, a two out of four star review is registered as 100% negative, and it earns a number of those reviews.

Extras on the DVD include a 4-minute montage of behind-the-scenes images and an audio commentary track with the director, Yen Tan, and one of the lead actors, Alessandro Calza, who were also the co-writers. The pair have good chemistry and have a number of personal stories to tell. It actually helps the pace of the movie.

The Verdict

Ciao is not a 100% successful movie and a lot of people will find its running time a little long, even at just 88 minutes. However, the writing and acting is strong enough that it's worth checking out. Additionally, the audio commentary helps enough that the DVD is a solid rental, leaning toward a purchase for its target audience.

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