It’s still 2020, the borders are still closed, and I’ve flipped through photos from past vacations 1,000 times. Where do I turn now to get my Italy fix? Netflix, obviously. American Netflix offers a handful of series and movies produced in Italy (among other countries) available for our indulgence of the language, the style, the hand gestures, and the transition shots of familiar Italian cityscapes.
So this week, I decided to do you the service of consuming as much Italian content available on American Netflix as possible, in order to provide you with my personal reviews and recommendations.
Let’s start with a real banger…
Think Gossip Girl but WAY darker. The premise is based on the true events of two disenchanted, private school teens from the affluent neighborhood of Parioli in Rome, who became underage prostitutes. IRL the scandal of the “baby squillo” came to light in 2014 and made major waves when the high-profile client list was revealed (think politicians, relatives of Mussolini, etc). Beyond the fascinating plotline, the music, the style, the aerial shots of Rome, and the confident acceptance of dark undereye circles, make Baby my favorite pick of this bunch. The series is short (3 seasons with about 6-8 episodes a piece) making this an easy weekend binge.
If you loved watching the broody Benedetta Porcaroli (lead of Baby) as much as I did, then you will probably also enjoy the film 18 Regali (18 Gifts). This time think P.S. I Love You, but swap Ireland for Italy, and Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler for a Mom/daughter love story. This heart-wrencher accounts a time bending story of a pregnant mother with terminal cancer and the 18-year-old daughter she never met. Ugh, you guys. Just make sure to have tissues nearby. I was not expecting to love this movie – but I loved this movie. Earmark this one for an evening you’re in the mood to feel some real feelings.
Ok, time to seriously lighten the mood. Summertime is a short series following a gaggle of youths whose lives converge one summer in an Italian beach town. Love triangles, angsty teens, pranks, parties, and beaches. This series has all the required ingredients to indulge your 90210 nostalgia but with an Italian twist. The character development exceeded my low expectations for the trite plotline. I would primarily recommend this one for those looking for a low-stress, easy-to-watch, Italian treat.
Under the Riccione Sun
If Summertime sounds like your speed but you’re not looking to commit to a whole series, then Under the Riccione Sun is your sweet spot. Once again, a gaggle of beautiful youths come together at an Italian beach town. Numerous vignettes about unrequited love, parties and of course beach volleyball ensue. I appreciate this film for making no apologies about how ridiculous it is.
PS – If you are wondering if “Ludo’s mom is now Nicco’s mom,” yes, yes she is. If you know, then you know.
Suburra: Blood on Rome
For the Narcos and Ozark bingers out there, Suburra is probably more up your alley. The series, inspired by the 2008 film, features three prominent crime families in Rome vying for one simple plot of land in Ostia (a nearby beach town). What’s the deal with a plot of land in a seedy beach town? Obviously – drugs. Suburra juxtaposes brutal violence against the enchanting backdrop of Rome, resulting in can’t-look-away-scenes. If political corruption, drug wars, and perfecting your Italian cursing is what you’re looking for, then Suburra is right for you.
Personally – I find Suburra hard to binge watch. If anything I feel like I need a walk and a shower after each episode.
Happy as Lazzaro
For the extra-artsy-niche-film-festival types – Happy as Lazzaro will hit the spot. As the winner of the Cannes Film Festival award for Best Screenplay, many would probably disagree with my description of this film as a “student film edited by M. Night Shyamalan,” but I’m sticking to it. Without blowing the plot twist, the movie is generally about a young man (Lazarro) who belongs to a family of poor sharecroppers. The film’s commentary on oppression, poverty, and human nature are a bit lost in the barrage of literary devices and purposefully grainy film. For me, watching it felt more like a homework assignment. I found myself thinking I needed a copy of the script and four different colors of highlighters so I could deconstruct and turn it in to my high school lit teacher for extra credit.
Aside from some Italian practice, there wasn’t much else about this film that scratched the Italy nostalgia itch for me.
Lucky for me – there is plenty more Italian content on Netflix to binge this fall. Next on my list is Curon -the spooky thriller about a cursed town in Italy. Let us know what Italian shows and movies you’ve seen lately and what you think!