Out of the shadows of ‘Mamma Mia!’ creeps this hysterically silly, sun-soaked yarn of love lost and found in Italy with a story that feels like it’s been scribbled on the side of a jar of Ragu and an approach to filming Italy that’s been nicked from an old Cornetto ad. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried; yes, this wants to be ‘Mamma Mia!’ without songs) is a lowly fact-checker at The New Yorker who takes a pre-wedding trip to Verona with her restaurateur boyfriend Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal, smiling and waving his hands about like a nutter). But, once in Europe, Gael is off snouting for truffles and Sophie is left to discover a cadre of writers who ritually reply to notes left at the city’s shrine to Shakespeare’s Juliet. Soon, Sophie is penning one such note herself to Claire (Vanessa Redgrave, distinguished amid the nonsense), an elderly Brit whose letter to an Italian sweetheart has been sitting behind a brick for decades. And what do you know? Claire turns up to search the Italian countryside with Sophie for her long-lost Lorenzo – along with her grumpy hunk of a grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan, actually Australian, which explains why he acts like a surfboard).
Is there any point wondering why some of these actors ignored the script and agreed to spend several weeks working in the glorious Italian countryside? But thank heavens for small mercies: someone must have realised in the edit that they might have a kitsch classic on their hands as there’s at least a knowing sense of camp alongside the dire performances and corny plotting.