Mambo Italiano

I had heard about this movie a few years ago, when I saw the trailer back in 2003 on cable tv. Mambo Italiano, which came out in 2003, is a Canadian movie focusing on the Italian community & culture in Montreal and a gay young man’s life after coming out of the closet. The movie is based on Steve Galluccio’s theatrical play by the same name, which about his real life.

Angelo Barberini (Luke Kirby) is the gay son of Italian immigrants who live in Montreal’s Little Italy, a close knit community. As a child he gets rejected by his only close friend, Nino, when the other kids in school labels him as gay. Angelo’s only other respite is his fun-loving young aunt, Yolanda, an aspiring actress & dancer, who teaches him to dance. However, tragedy strikes when, a little after her marriage, his aunt Yolanda dies in an accident. As a 27 year old man, he is working in the call center of an airline agency, a job he despises.

Angelo shocks his parents – and his sister, Anna (Claudia Ferri) – by moving out on his own without getting married, which is considered to be against the norm for Italians. Shortly after that, he is reunited with his childhood best friend, Nino Paventi (Peter Miller) who is now a cop. They bond while camping and become lovers. Nino moves in with Angelo, at first trying to keep their affair a secret by the illusion of two separate bedrooms. Anna finds out first and becomes a reluctant ally. However when Angelo announces that he is gay and that Nino is his lover, the latter is not happy as he wasn’t ready to come out of the closet.

Nino’s busybody Sicilian mother, Lina (Mary Walsh) is not happy about the situation and sets her son up with Pina (Sophie Loraine). Pina and Nino have also met before and soon, in an effort to become straight, Nino begins a relationship with Pina. The young policeman shuns his lover Angelo to opt for traditional family life, after his patrol partner hints at the scandal that would otherwise ensue. In doing so he demonstrates a clear preference of respectability above passion.

Angelo is distraught at Nino’s rejection and initially blasts at his parents for not accepting him as gay. His only comfort now is his well meaning sister Anna, who takes him to a gay helpline’s meeting. Angelo had earlier called up the helpline and spoke to a concerned volunteer. At the meeting, the same volunteer asks Angelo to help other gay or lesbians out by spending time answering their calls for guidance. Angelo is bad at it but he now begins a relationship with the volunteer. His family has finally accepted him as a homosexual (or ‘omosesual’ as the Italian accents say it) and they welcome him back with open arms.

The movie is warm, funny and a change in styles to the other movies that you normally watch. Paul Sorvino & Ginette Reno as Angelo’s parents are a hoot as is Mary Walsh. 8 outta 10.

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