The Repairman: Turin Review

Bittersweet farce about rocky romance.

This amiable Italian debut explores the tragicomic love life of a small-town slacker.

A small-town repairman struggles to fix a dysfunctional relationship in this genial Italian rom-com. Claiming to be inspired by real events, The Repairman marks the feature debut of writer-director Paolo Mitton, who previously worked in digital effects on big-budget projects including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Alien Vs Predator and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Screened at the Turin Film Festival last week, this is a sweet little story with modest word-of-mouth commercial potential outside Italy, particularly if marketed to audiences who miss Woody Allen’s early, funny films.

Daniele Savoca gives a puppyish performance as Scanio, an amiable beta-male geek with an unruly beard and a precarious job doing freelance repairs for a coffee-machine company. Surrounded by more successful friends, living in a crumbling apartment owned a domineering landlady, Scanio’s loser-ish life shuffles along aimlessly until he meets Helena (Hannah Croft), a British expat with a budding career as a corporate consultant. They move in together, but their romance slowly unravels due to Scanio’s slacker lifestyle and increasingly eccentric behavior, inventing useless gadgets and daydreaming of Nobel Prizes instead of looking for work.

The Repairman is a slight and familiar story, powered by gentle observational humor and an agreeably jaunty musical score. Divided into episodic chapters, with a couple of time-jumping loops in the non-linear narrative, the structure is more tricksy that it first appears. Mitton and his co-writer Francesco Scarrone frame the main action as a flashback, a rambling anecdote related by Scanio to his fellow traffic offenders at a speed awareness course. Crucially, his Woody-ish brand of emotionally needy neurosis is ultimately more charming than punchable.

Mitton does not reinvent the rom-com rulebook with The Repairman, which takes the soft option of bittersweet whimsy rather than risk any darker insights into real-life relationships. That said, this polished semi-autobiographical debut resists the easy cop-out of a feelgood fantasy finale. It also boasts an impressive technical finish considering its slender budget, reportedly less than $300,000. David Rom’s cinematography captures small-town Italy in handsome autumnal tones, while a handful of unobtrusive digital effects lend the film a light sprinkle of magical realism, notably a duck that sails through the opening credits and later becomes a symbolic motif for Scanio’s romantic woes.

Production companies: Aida Productions, Seven Stills Pictures

Producers: Paolo Giangrasso, Filippo Margiaria

Starring: Daniele Savoca, Hannah Croft, Francesca Porrin, Paolo Giangrasso

Director: Paolo Mitton

Writers: Paolo Mitton, Francesco Scarrone

Cinematographer: David Rom

Editor: Enrico Giovannone, Matteo Paolini

Music: Alan Brunetta, Ricky Mantoan

Sales company: Aida Productions

Unrated, 89 minutes