‘Made in Italy,’ James D’Arcy’s feature-film directorial debut, is a comedy-drama film about a father-son duo working through their shared grief against the backdrop of picturesque Tuscany. Jack Foster, a passionate art curator, lost his mother at a young age, with his father, Robert, subsequently becoming more and more estranged. However, twenty years later, circumstances push the distant pair back into each other’s orbit when Jack pushes his father to sell his mother’s family home in Tuscany. As a result, Jack and Robert undertake the seemingly impossible task of fixing up their old home that has fallen into disrepair after decades of neglect— and end up tentatively fixing their own broken dynamic.
In depicting the reality of familial grief, the film takes a subtle comedic route, as expressed through repressed emotions and a frail parental relationship. Therefore, given the realistic and— on some level— the universally relatable subject matter of the film, viewers must wonder if artist Robert Foster and his narrative hold any connections to a true story.
Made In Italy: Roots in Filmmaker James D’Arcy’s Life
Although ‘Made in Italy’ is not based on a true story, reality certainly lends tangible inspiration to the film’s narrative. The story deals with a fraught relationship between a son and his distant father, whose relationship was deeply severed after the death of the former’s mother. Consequently, the two characters, Robert, a famed painter, and his son, Jack, a struggling but skilled art curator, harbor immensely repressed emotions about the traumatic experience. Nevertheless, life manages to nudge them in a redemptive direction through a run-down Italian house built on good bones.
Robert and Jack Foster remain entirely fictitious characters. Still, their story remains an authentic account of grief and the healing that follows with it. While the base premise is grounded enough in realistic emotions and storylines, the film also holds personal relations rooted in reality. With ‘Made in Italy,’ James D’Arcy, best known for his acting career, debuts into the world of storytelling as the Director and Writer behind the film.
As it would turn out, D’Arcy’s real-life experiences directly inspired him to craft Jack and Robert’s narratives. The filmmaker lost his father at the age of seven. As such, he intimately understood the intricacies of grief that stem from the loss of a parent. Moreover, due to his complicated relationship with his father, he was able to channel real emotions into Jack’s journey.
When discussing the same in a conversation with FandomWire, D’Arcy expanded on the same and said, “My father died when I was very young, so this script was my love letter, or fantasy love letter, to what my relationship with my father might’ve been like.” In fact, initially, D’Arcy wanted to play the role of Jack himself when he started working on the story idea. Nevertheless, due to several complications, the film’s final product wasn’t ready to undergo development until almost a decade later, by which the filmmaker felt he had gotten too old to play the role.
Furthermore, by then, D’Arcy had discovered his own desire to direct, which settled him behind the camera. Ultimately, with this film, D’Arcy wanted to provide a realistic story about family, grief, and love— themes that carry an innate sense of realism. Yet, his particular light-hearted, comedy-tolerant approach to the subject matter enhances the plot’s authenticity. “I wanted to try and make a hopeful film, you know,” said D’Arcy in an interview with The Upcoming. “[Or] I felt like everyone in the world has their challenge— whatever that is. I feel like if we can somehow harness the hope, then we can get through our own challenges.”
Liam Neeson’s Personal Connection to Character Robert Foster
Much like the film, Liam Neeson’s character, Robert Foster, is also not based on a real-life artist. Nonetheless, surprisingly, the fictional character ends up possessing several unintentional parallels to Neeson and his personal life. In the film, Liam Neeson’s real-life son, Micheál Neeson, portrays the role of the former’s on-screen kid, Jack. Furthermore, both actors’ characters undergo an emotional narrative reminiscent of their real-life experiences.
In 2009, the Neeson family faced a grave tragedy when Liam Neeson’s wife and Micheál Neeson’s mother, Natasha Richardson, passed away following a skiing accident during a vacation in Quebec. Therefore, even though neither Jack nor Robert is based on Liam and Micheál, the actors deeply understood the plight of their characters. Similarly, their natural chemistry played a considerable part in defining the natural authenticity of the dynamic between their characters.
D’Arcy spoke about the same and said, “I wrote the script while Natasha [Richardson] was still alive, so it is completely by chance, but I do think it is one of the things that Liam probably tapped into when he read the script.”
Thus, even though Liam Neeson’s character holds no basis in the actor’s life story, the two individuals coincidentally end up sharing a lot in common, which plays into the former’s authentic on-screen performance. Nevertheless, the character, Robert Foster, is not based on an actual artist, despite his experiences’ realism.
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