Michael Winterbotton is one of my favorite film-makers. The true mark of a Winterbottom film is that it is nothing like any other Winterbottom film, yet you can feel the director’s unique presence. He’s made several masterpieces (Tristram Shandy, Welcome to Sarajevo, The Claim, 24 Hour Party People, A Mighty Heart) and a couple of duds (9 Songs, Code 46), but nothing quite as conventional as Genova.
Genova is the story of a grieving father (Colin Firth) who moves himself and his daughters to the titular Italian city after the tragic death of his wife. There is no real story arc; just a series of scenes showing the family adapting to their new home. The city of Genova looks absolutely beautiful, with its narrow alleys and ancient architecture, but there’s only so many times you can watch characters walk down dark alleys before that becomes boring. In fact, many scenes are replayed (the younger daughter crying out for her mother, the older daughter with her eyes closed while riding on the back of a motorcylce) and it seems like filler.
For a movie about grief, Genova feels very light on emotion. At the end of the day, anyone could have directed it. The only true Winterbottomesque touches are the hand-held camera and use of natural light, which are oddly distracting when there is nothing else going on to engage you.