There is a lot of pain and anguish in this world, but amongst these things, we also find some heart-warming stories. One such story is that of Elisa Girotto. A year after giving birth to her first child, she succumbed to breast cancer. What made this incident catch fire was that she had left behind 18 gifts for her daughter, for each birthday until she comes of age. Netflix film ’18 Regali’ uses this premise to explore the story of little Anna, wondering how she will react to the absence of her mother and the presents she has left behind for her.
Even thinking about this whole situation makes one emotional, and watching something like that play out on the screen is sure to leave the viewers teary-eyed. However, despite the incredible potential of its emotional setting, ’18 Regali’ doesn’t stir the same intensity of affection and heart-break that you would expect going into it. It does good, but not good enough.
18 Presents Plot
Elisa and Alessio are preparing to welcome their first child. Elisa is making the list of all the things that they need to have, and her husband is charged with cleaning and painting the room for the baby. In the midst of this happy and busy time, they receive a heart-breaking news. Elisa is diagnosed with cancer, and while her baby will be fine, the mother won’t survive to watch her grow up.
As Elisa tries to process this information, we fast forward 18 years into the future. By now, little Anna is all grown up, and instead of cherishing the gifts given to her by her mother, she is angry and sad. She misses her mother, whom she never got to know. And her relationship with her father, who tries to provide for her as best as he can, is complicated. She also doesn’t like to get the gifts her mother couldn’t give her in person. What’s the point, she asks.
On her eighteenth birthday, instead of attending her party, she runs away from home. She is hit by a car and wakes up to find that her whole world has changed.
18 Presents Review
’18 Regali’ is the story of a mother, a daughter, and the invaluable presents that link them. In telling this story, the film could have chosen any one of these things, and driven it to the point where the viewers would be left in a pool of their own tears by the end. However, that doesn’t happen. Or at least, it doesn’t happen as well as it could have.
It’s not that the film didn’t have good actors who failed to convey the emotions on the screen. In fact, the performances of the leads are one of the best things about the film. The chemistry of Vittoria Puccini and Benedetta Porcaroli is sparkling and moving. They give us a good sense of who Elisa and Anna are. We see both of them grieving for the same event but from the opposite sides of a rope that connects them. Even in the frailest of scenes, they create enough emotion to keep us invested in their story.
The major flaw lies in the way the story has been approached. The filmmakers chose this fantasy to give the mother and daughter a meeting that they will never have. However, in doing so, it allows itself to let go of a lot of other emotions that would have been more heavy-hitting because they’d have been rooted in reality. We are supposed to feel bad for Anna because she never properly grieved for her mother and hence endangered her other relationships. But the story never fully explores that theme. It shows us that she feels alone and abandoned, despite being surrounded by family, but we never really feel that for her.
Similarly, Elisa, too, doesn’t get proper focus for her emotions. Puccini gives her best to show us how broken-hearted her character feels, but before we can get into that, the unexpected happens, and the film takes a different route to the same destination. Following the same pattern, the presents, which are perhaps the most important part of the story, get lost in all the mix-ups. It was expected that when Anna receives her final gift, we would, at least, feel a pinch in our heart, if not breaking down into tears entirely. But, because the film kept us floating on the surface of their emotions, never diving deep in, that impact never arrives.
Read More: Where was 18 Regali Filmed?