The 20th Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF) is about to begin at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St. Running March 3-30 and presenting 62 new feature films from all 28 EU Nations, this festival will broaden your film-appreciation horizons. From romantic comedies such as the opening night film “20,000 Reasons” to intense psychological dramas such as “The Unknown Girl” from the famed French Dardennes brothers, the CEUFF has it all.
As Malta presides over the EU, the opening night film “20,000 Reasons” hails from this small Mediterranean island. It’s a romantic comedy that bursts with culture and connects you with two young people falling in love, ever so reluctantly. While the film is absolutely humorous and sometimes downright silly, it also expertly intertwines social issues of class boundaries and family commitments and expectations.
Sophie (Maria Pia Meli) owns her own small company. She’s remarkably driven and eschews her family’s wealth, committed to making her own way in life, even though her company depends on the family’s money. Her grandmother, the matriarch of the family, wants nothing more than to have her two granddaughters well taken care of financially when she passes away. Grandma thinks that marriage is a must in life and places a caveat on her will—both Sophie and her sister, Juliana (Taryn Mamo Cefai) must be married before they turn 30. For Sophie, that is only three months away and she has just caught her Lothario of a boyfriend with another woman. Making Grandma happy might be a little more difficult than Sophie bargained for as she makes a deal with a desparate man, Ramon (Aldo Zammit), the groundskeeper who has a few skeletons in his closet.
Meli creates her character of Sophie beautifully. Sophie is a little jaded in her outlook on love and focuses intensely on her work. She’s a perfectionist and her personality collides with Ramon, but we can truly see her falling ever so slowly in love with him. Zammit’s portrayal of Ramon, the sweet and unlucky chap who never gets a break and is always in over his head is remarkable. Finding that balance of being a nice guy, but always making the viewer guess about his true motives is not an easy task. Zammit gives us exactly this with absolute ease.
While Sophie and Ramon are quite relatable, it is the supporting cast with their hilariously exaggerated personalities, that make this a fun romp at the theater. Steffan Busuttil’s portrayal of the handsome but wandering boyfriend Jonathan is sublimely superficial and narcissistic. He wow’s us with his embarrassingly comedic proposal to Sophie in the opening scene, alerting the viewer to the fun that lies ahead. Grandma Domenica (Marylou Coppini) is the epitome of what we envision a wealthy, controlling woman to be. With a few bad guys to round out the schemes that create comedic confusion, it is Christopher Dingli’s Father Norbert character that stands out. He’s awkwardly sweet, charming, and somehow is a guiding force despite his lack of Fatherly skills. Each and every character has their own story to tell with a personality that will bowl you over.
“20,000 Reasons” is everything a romantic comedy should be. It’s a throw-back to what makes us laugh out loud—communication mix-ups, greedy but not too bright bad guys, and a few over-the-top characters. The pace is fast with never a dull moment giving the viewer everything it wants in a romantic comedy.
To see “20,000 Reasons,” go to http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/20000reasons