E1 Entertainment // 2008 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // April 19th, 2010
A tale of love.
Yen Tan's little film Ciao is a compelling indie drama about two men trying to deal with grief through the power of a new friendship. Even though the movie was shot on a low budget and its theatrical release was minuscule, it boasts a remarkably touching story filled with authentic dialogue viewers will easily relate to.
The film introduces us to Jeff (Adam Neal Smith), a Dallas resident who has just lost his best friend Mark in a tragic car accident. Going through his late buddy's e-mails to let people know what happened, Jeff stumbles across a large selection of messages from a guy named Andrea (Alessandro Calza), an Italian guy who has been Internet dating Mark and was supposed to pay him a visit for a first in-person meeting. Even though he still has an option to cancel his flight, Andrea decides to visit nonetheless, and shortly after his arrival in the United States, he and Jeff form a strong bond that helps them cope with the loss of their mutual friend.
Ciao is an incredibly inspiring film in the way Tan wrote and shot it, and one of the main reasons it works so well is the real emotion the filmmaker manages to generate via a very simplistic story line and realistic characters who don't have to say too much to keep viewers engaged from beginning to end. Ciao is a slow-moving drama without much dialogue or action, but the words Jeff and Andrea speak and the things they do create a steady flow I found very easy to enjoy.
Anybody who previously had to deal with the loss of a loved one will undoubtedly be able to relate to parts of the film, and that's exactly what a movie in this genre should accomplish. The plot is utterly simple and the characters don't do much except sharing meaningful conversations or driving around, but I found myself unable to keep my eyes off the screen. Tan's subtle writing and his calm, smooth direction really got me hooked.
The movie begins with Jeff and Andrea exchanging some e-mails, which quickly set up the story and lets viewers know that the two men will eventually meet for sure. After Andrea's arrival, the two just hang out, engaging mostly in conversations about what Mark was like and how they both felt about him. Interestingly enough, both men get to know Mark from a side they didn't know, a discovery that pushes them to find out a lot more about each other.
Needless to say, the film shows how these two individuals find a way to share their grief. Taking the time to talk about what a special human being Mark was before his death, Jeff and Andrea start to realize how much they really miss him. The drastic difference of their relationships with Mark is what keeps Ciao intriguing throughout. Jeff has known him forever and used to hang out with him all the time, but Andrea, on the other hand, only knew him through e-mails and a few phone calls.
I also loved Tan's use of the title. Ciao means both hello and goodbye, and in the film, it clearly symbolizes the end of a chapter in their lives as well as the beginning of a journey filled with hope. Tan's writing paints these two characters in a delicate fashion, and that's what kept me interested until the end. That and the whole series of silent moments and long takes that perfectly accentuate the sadness and solitude both Jeff and Andrea are dealing with. The film's powerful impact comes largely from Tan's intention to say less and show more, and it all works.
A quick word about the acting. Calza and Smith deliver to real, honest performances, and even though some moments between them appear a tad awkward at times, they always find a way to settle in the scene and come across as comfortable enough. All in all though, they both handle the material quite well.
On the technical side, this DVD boasts a solid 1.78:1 widescreen presentation, and a clean audio transfer and sharp image quality help make Ciao an enjoyable viewing experience. Besides a photo montage, the bonus section includes an interesting commentary with Tan and actor and co-writer Calza, who talk a lot about the story and intentions of the film. It's definitely worth checking out if you're curious about how this project came together.
For those of you interested in real dramas without too much action and dialogue, Ciao won't disappoint. As simple as its story is, the film packs a lot of meaning. I found it intriguing to explore these characters during the reasonable 87-minute running time. Check it out, and I promise you won't be disappointed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Photo Gallery