Ginevra Elkann’s lovely directorial debut, set in the early 90s and based on her own childhood, finds three siblings arriving in Rome from Paris on a visit to their unreliable father, where family tensions and spontaneous fun mix.
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Peppy eight-year-old Alma (Oro De Commarque, an adorable new face to remember) prays secretly for the reunion of her divorced parents over one indelible winter in this brisk, instantly appealing family drama. Torn between France and Italy, Alma and her two older brothers are shipped off by their pregnant – and very Catholic – mother to spend time with their father (Riccardo Scamarcio), a struggling screenwriter whose parenting skills also lack finesse. What unfolds to everyone’s surprise is a freewheeling season of beach outings, daytrips to Rome and joyrides with a gang of cooler, older kids, one of whom Alma falls for and fantasises about their future marriage alongside the day her parents will renew their vows.
Directing with a remarkable lightness of touch, Ginevra Elkann guides her ensemble cast (which includes The Wonders’ Alba Rohrwacher and Fleabag’s greasy Brett Gelman) through scene after scene of effortless naturalism and mischief. No single event in If Only feels outlandish or contrived, a testament to its portrayal of the way the fondest memories often feel incidental in the moment and only later – like the charms of this splendid first feature – catch you off guard.
About the Filmmaker
Ginevra Elkann (notably a granddaughter of Gianni Agnelli, founder of Fiat) is an Italian producer and director. She was assistant to Bernardo Bertolucci on Besieged (1998), and currently chairs the production companies Asmara Films and Good Films. If Only is her directorial feature debut.