Road to the Lemon Grove Parent Guide
The acting is so bad it's acutely embarrassing just to be in the audience.
Parent Movie Review
This film is currently only screening in Canada.
Have you ever been to an event – a school concert, an amateur theatrical performance – where someone is performing so badly that it’s embarrassing to even be in the audience? If so, you know what it’s like to sit through Road to the Lemon Grove. As I watched its star, Charly Chiarelli, chew the scenery and generally behave like a buffoon, I winced, scrunched up in my seat, and desperately wished I were somewhere else.
The Road to the Lemon Grove is on a difficult journey, with a recycled plot and a weak starring actor. It tells the well worn tale of Antonio Contatini (Charly Chiarelli), a dead Sicilian father who is being denied entry to heaven by God (voiced by singer Loreena McKennitt) until he repairs his relationship with his son, Calogero (also played by Charly Chiarelli).
Antonio’s going to have a difficult time fixing this toxic father/son dynamic from beyond the grave. Calogero is so angry with his father that he spends the beginning of the film in a state of (poorly acted) rage – ranting in the street, breaking small figurines with a baseball bat, and even raising his fist to punch his father’s corpse in his casket. And when Antonio’s ghost materializes in front of him, the two have a fistfight in the funeral home. Luckily, Antonio has a solution: his will requires Calogero to return to Sicily to scatter his ashes in the family’s lemon grove, which will presumably soften his heart and heal the breach. But there’s a complication. The lemon grove was owned by Antonio’s late wife, and her family, the Pescaris, have never given up their claim to the land. Can Calogero’s trip to Sicily (accompanied by his father’s ghost) mend a fractured family, end a feud, bring happiness to everyone, and admit Antonio to heaven?
Frankly, the plot holds few surprises – except for Calogero’s implausible good luck in finding romance with a stunning movie star (Rosella Brescia). The most interesting parts of the film are Calogero’s musings on the relationship between language and identity. But this is a surprisingly intellectual detour in an otherwise mindless film. What kept my attention focused on the screen were the incredibly beautiful locations in Sicily. I didn’t stick around for the credits, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this film were lavishly subsidized by Sicily’s tourism department. Watching the movie is enough to put Sicily on anyone’s bucket list.
Gorgeous images of Sicily aside, there aren’t many reasons to watch Road to the Lemon Grove. There is a fair bit of clownish violence, and a significant amount of profanity. There isn’t explicit sexual content, but there is a cringeworthy subplot involving Calogero’s cousin, Guido Pescari (Nick Mancuso). There is some early telegraphing of his sexual orientation (he carries a man purse) but once he arrives in Sicily, the script really starts to wink at the audience. He kidnaps the Contatini family lawyer, Mauro (Marco Perfetto), and keeps him tied up for a few days. The two discuss his workout regimen, and when the story is resolved, Guido races back to Mauro, removes the gag in his mouth, and kisses him. The men then become a couple. Using homophobic stereotypes for humor simply isn’t funny and is acutely distasteful.
As for positive themes, there are plenty to be found here. Making peace with family members, forgiving past wrongs, expressing affection to loved ones, defusing long-held conflicts, appreciating one’s ethnic heritage – all of these are valuable messages for viewers of any age. Sadly, the road to these messages is littered with terrible acting and a hackneyed plot and is unlikely to be well travelled.Directed by Dale Hildebrand. Starring Burt Young, Rossella Brescia, and Nick Mancuso. Running time: 88 minutes. Theatrical release August 30, 2019. Updated April 6, 2020
Watch the trailer for Road to the Lemon Grove
Road to the Lemon Grove
Rating & Content Info
Why is Road to the Lemon Grove rated Not Rated? Road to the Lemon Grove is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: A main character hits a corpse in a casket. A ghost and a man have a fist fight. A man destroys small figurines with a baseball bat. A main character yells at a ghost; his students don’t see the ghost and simply see him yelling at nothing. A ghost slaps a woman’s backside: she assumes a man hit her so she slaps his face in retaliation. A woman threatens a man with a knife because she thinks he’s a stalker. A man hits another in the head with a tire iron. He drags his limp body down the stair, takes him to another apartment where he gags him and ties him to a chair.
Sexual Content: A woman wears a low cut blouse with lacy underclothes showing. She is later shown with her blouse sliding completely off one shoulder and her camisole visible. Men and women kiss on many occasions. Two men kiss each other: one is tied up. A man goes skinny dipping: we see him naked from behind.
Profanity: A conservative count indicates 16 mild swear words, two terms of deity, eight scatological curses, two anatomical phrases, and two crude expressions.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is ubiquitous social drinking as characters drink wine with most meals, as is traditional in Italy. Some minor characters smoke in the background.
Page last updated April 6, 2020
Road to the Lemon Grove Parents' Guide
What do you think about Antonio’s instructions to his son? What kind of things do you think are appropriate to include in a will?
The Guardian: Ten of the strangest wills of all time.
Calogero spends a lot of time musing about the relationship between language and identity. Do you know where your ancestors came from? Do you know anything about that country or its culture? Do you speak the language? Did you know that the disappearance of languages is a real phenomenon?
Language and identity
The Atlantic: How Immigration Changes Language
New York Times: World’s Languages Dying Off Rapidly
The Atlantic: What’s Lost When a Language Dies?
The Atlantic: Where Do Languages Go to Die?
Finding your roots
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