In the span of a month, Toronto has gotten two independent films that feature exotic locations starring a cast member of Degrassi: The Next Generation. While they’re both badly made, Adriarico My Love is not the worst out of the two. That dishonour still goes to Dev Khanna’s Fondi ’91.
However, Nikola Curcin’s peculiar film is a shabby endeavour and just about the strangest film you’ll see this Summer – and, not in a way that should or will entice your curiosity.
That uneasy sinking feeling movie goers will adapt starts during the opening credits over a series of cutaways leading to scene one. The film’s dated look is the first thing audiences will pick up on. Those initial clips during the opening credits are supposed to introduce viewers to the allure the Mediterranean setting has to offer, but we can’t help but wonder what early 90’s travelogue Curcin is borrowing snippets from.
That’s because Adriatico My Love is just that. A guiding tour through the architecture and rolling hills of the Mediterranean with a loose story of foreign romance and “finding one’s self”, but more than often looking like a stranger’s home videos from a family vacation in 1992.
The battered look actually somewhat works for the first scene. We see Alex (played by Valerie Buhagiar) host her cable access cooking show as she trudges through the snow to show her viewers how to defrost fish in the coldest of winters. For those familiar with cheap cable access quality will get a kick out of the cheesy animated bumpers and lower thirds. We’re also introduced to Alex’s deep fascination with olive oil…
But, then that televisual style carries on and sticks with Curcin’s film throughout – allowing audiences to scoff at the finished product often because of how out of touch everything looks and sounds. According to Telefilm’s website (a company who’s attached to the film), Adriatico My Love was shot on HDCAM SR, a camera that shoots on videocassette and is usually used for television HD shoots. It shows.
It’s understandable that a low-budget film such as Adriatico My Love is bound to succumb to lo-fi features, but in an age where accessible and sleek equipment is readily available for aspiring filmmakers, I’m left pondering why Curcin’s film should take on such an unjustifiably cruddy presentation.
The other elements making up the movie – such as the acting and the screenplay – have an equally troubling time keeping us interested, but rather have us worried for other reasons. Reasons that were not meant by the filmmaker but because the script has been written in a hair-raising way and how the bewildered, unmotivated actors have been plopped in front of the camera, these double entendres are oddly inevitable.
The relationship between Buhagiar and Dorian Kolinas (who plays Alex’s agitated daughter, Lucy) will have movie goers wondering what film they’ve gotten themselves involved with. Buhagiar and Kolinas have unconvincing chemistry as the two bicker back and forth about their vacation to Adriatico. But while on vacation, there are these shots that linger on the actresses. Uninspired muzak plays as Buhagiar and Kolinas smile or brood at each other. In an unintentional disturbing manner, these moments make us wonder if these two are going to make out instead of make up.
It’s a soft core alley I didn’t want to travel down when watching Adriatico My Love, but Curcin’s scenes have been shot and edited in such a way where the shady context is awkwardly apparent. I’m willing to point the blame on blissful and innocent ignorance from those behind the camera, but there’s not enough evidence here for me to buy that.
I’m sure many moments are supposed to resemble a female romance novel. There are enough scenes with the girls in low-cut tops, drinking wine under harsh lighting, and talking to suave gentlemen to solidify this theory. But, these tropes shouldn’t happen between the mother and the daughter. It makes the whole thing feel yucky.
Back to the story. Lucy complains that she’s been dragged on this trip. She whines that she doesn’t want to come during preceding scenes. I’m convinced there’s a scene missing between these struggles and Lucy’s eventual give-in because at the drop of a hat and a quick zoom in transition into a painting, Lucy goes from whining to sitting on a boat passing Mediterranean landscapes.
Character motivations follow this same foggy outline. Characters will be happily overtaken by the culture and by the company around them, then be furious or upset at someone, and then – in a blink of an eye – be very forgiving. Adriatico My Love should be consistently embracing and intriguing its audience. Instead, it struggles with multiple personalities.
Nikola Curcin isn’t entirely sure what genre his movie should fall into. Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a drama about finding lost love? If Curcin wanted to make a film dabbling in both areas, he’s ill-equipped since he has difficulty succeeding with just one of these.
The filmmaker does come to a realization though. When we reach the final third, Curcin hits every emergency stop button possible. The movie halts and the frazzled filmmaker hits autopilot.
The last stretch of Adriatico My Love is a typical, by-the-numbers foreign romance yarn, hoping to win the audience back. However, with actions still remaining unmotivated and people falling in love because “they have to”, the change in gears is anything but genuine and rather insincere and inexplicably tame.
The saying goes, “they come in threes”. I’m taking Adriatico My Love as a second warning of what’s to come. As soon as I see coming attractions for a romantic dramedy starring Lauren Collins and Drake, I’ll be high tailing it to the Mediterranean to escape – where you’ll find me seductively eating olives.