We're Nothing Like James Bond: Film Review

Light handling of a heavy subject makes this a delicate exploration of the meaning of life after illness.

The film is a touching portrait of friendship between two men and their courageous confrontation with mortality.

A tender, occasionally moving tale of friendship between two middle-aged Italian men, We’re Nothing Like James Bond revolves around the quirky, not entirely convincing premise of two straight friends, well over 50, making a documentary salute to the invincible early Bond. This tenuous thread holds together thin material that feels stretched and out of breath at times. Yet the central figures of director Mario Balsamo (I Dreamt of Colorful Clouds) and his lifelong pal Guido Gabrielli, who use each other and the film as sounding boards to reflect on their lives and illnesses, bring a touching, very human dimension to the laid-back nonstory. The film won a special jury award at the last Torino Film Festival and has just aired on Italian TV. Its festival potential has particular appeal to older audiences.

The original idea came to Mario and Guido on a long-ago trip they took together to Iceland. Now older men, each of whom has survived a bout with cancer, they still want to compare their lives to James Bond and playfully lament how different they are. Walking around Italian streets in black dinner jackets and driving old cars to a few strummed notes of theme songs is cute, but it's a gag that grows stale quickly. Their single coup de theatre is having lunch in a homey Roman trattoria with a laughing Daniela Bianchi, aka Tatiana Romanov in From Russia With Love. She puts them on the trail of the real-life Sean Connery, who Mario does a good job tracking down on the phone for some “advice” about how to be immortal and chic on every occasion.

The serious side of the tale soon emerges, however, when Guido – a little haggard and walking strangely -- discusses his struggle with leukemia, which he survived thanks to a difficult bone marrow transplant. Later, Mario is revealed to have had a tumor removed from his leg. Handled delicately, their life-threatening illnesses (plus a near-fatal car accident) turn the silliness around to give some sense to their tongue-in-cheek search for the secret to being forever Bond. The irony is that they themselves embody superhero qualities in their courageous confrontation of death and honest soul-searching for the meaning of their lives.

The film’s virtue is that it never sinks into melancholy or pain thanks to Guido’s strong character and Mario’s resiliency and determination to make his film no matter what. Shot on a shoestring, it has a recurrent scene on a beach near Sabaudia that is a marvel of life-affirming colors and natural beauty, set off by Teho Teardo’s delicate score.   

Production companies: Mir Cinematografica, Hasenso Produzioni  
Cast: Guido Gabrielli, Mario Balsamo, Daniela Bianchi

Director: Mario Balsamo
Producer: Gianfilippo Pedote
Directors of photography/camera: Andrea Foschi, Sabrina Varani, Simone Pierini  
Music: Teho Teardo
Editor: Benni Atria
Sales: Mir Cinenamatografica
No rating, 73  minutes