The Italian word “ciao” can mean both
“hello” and “goodbye.” It’s an apt title for the wonderful new movie, Ciao, which is about both saying hello
and saying goodbye —and how one man uses the act of saying hello to say
It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Jeff,
who lives in Dallas,
is dealing with the recent accidental death of his best friend, Mark. In
reviewing some of Mark‘s email, Jeff finds evidence of what was a hidden, online
romance between Mark and a man in Italy, Andrea. They were even planning on
meeting for the first time, with Andrea coming to stay with Mark for the upcoming
At first, Jeff emails Andrea and tells him
of Mark’s death, and to not to bother coming. But he learns that Andrea’s
ticket is already paid for, so, upon reflection, Jeff invites Andrea to come
and stay with him anyway.
Over the course of the next two days,
these two strangers bond over, and start to come to terms with, the recent
death of their mutual friend.
There are so many things I loved about Ciao, which is currently playing at Los Angeles’ Outfest Film
Festival, that it’s hard to know where to start. But most of all, I loved how
different the subject matter was for a “gay” film. After watching the
twenty-thousandth story of some amoral, but frequently shirtless hustler, or
the thirty-thousandth portrait of some misunderstood but oh-so-sensitive gay
kid, what I was apparently yearning for was a minimalistic meditation on the
nature of grief, friendship, and love.
Adam Neal Smith
And minimalistic it is. This is a movie
with a small cast, simple sets, and a deliberately clean and simple filming
style. If car-crashes and quick edits are your thing, this may not be the movie
That said, this movie is anything but a pretentious
art-house snooze-fest, and it’s not fair to slap the “character study” label on
it either — the tag critics give to justify films that, outrageously, don’t bother
with anything resembling a plot. True, Ciao
is basically an extended conversation between two people, but unlike, say, My Dinner With Andre, the film crackles
with dramatic tension and unresolved feeling. Ciao is the story of a love triangle, but with one third of the
triangle deceased. How could things be any more unresolved than that?
And yet, despite its seemingly gentle pace,
this movie quickly picks up steam and rushes headlong toward its not-entirely-unexpected,
and yet somehow very satisfying conclusion. The scene on the bed between Jeff
and Andrea is one of the most tender and interesting I’ve ever seen.