• Various/Onna Carr

A Film in Review: The Italian Key

Updated: Oct 27, 2019


Post by Onna Carr

The Italian Key opens with Cabella, the main character of the film, pondering the death of her guardian, Max, considering what little she knows about herself and her family, and contemplating jumping off a bridge. Cabella decides not to jump, packs up her possessions, and goes to a law office to hear of Max's assets and to witness their transfer to his mother and nieces as he had no will. After this, the barrister takes Cabella aside and hands her a faded envelope containing a large key, a postcard with an Italian address, and an explanation that Max left this to his care for her if Max did pass away as it explains some of her history.

Cabella leaves England and heads to Genoa, meeting the makers of her key and gaining the address the key belongs to, a villa in a village that bears her name, Cabella. On the way to the village, Cabella stops off at a waterfall to take a swim (fully clothed) and loses the key. As she frantically searches for the key, a fellow comes out of the water from nowhere, hands her the key, and walks off without a word. I am not sure what is with dripping wet guys in film from Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice to Dan Stevens in Sense and Sensibility. I have always felt drenched people are best avoided as they have been in uncharted waters, and after such experiences, are uncharted waters themselves; but, I digress.

Cabella makes it to the village of Cabella in the Piedmont region of Italy and to her beyond awesome, fully-furnished villa. The next morning, Cabella goes to the local negozio di alimentary (local grocery) to find it ran by the Silent Key-Finder, who does not apparently speak or hear as his friendly cousin, Maria, explains he is deaf, mute, named Leo, and spoke when a child but one day he just stopped talking and apparently hearing. Maria comes to visit Cabella that evening with her two sisters, Sophia and Giulia, and the four young women become friends. The three sisters are charming with their vitality, playfulness, and endearing natures. Maria is the eldest and has a significant infatuation with Lord Jai, who is a young Indian man with a large Castillo, extensive grounds, a vintage Rolls Royce, extensive grounds, a mysterious past, and brooding nature (think of an approachable Indian Mr. Darcy), and did I mention extensive grounds? Maria works as a maid for Lord Jai. Sophia spends her time painting friendly deer in the forest. Guilla, the youngest, spends her days waiting for her future husband to show up on a bus and, though a bit odd, is of a sweet disposition.

As The Italian Key progresses, Cabella and the three sisters discover that Sister Ambrosia, a local nun, had a child when young with Bronzini, a local man (we assume). Ambrosia told everyone she had seen a vision of the Virgin, was a Virgin herself, took her vows, and gave up the child, Chiara, who as an adult, lived in Cabella's villa. When the child was given up, Bronzini left the village and became a hermit, tending his vineyard and getting his groceries delivered. As Cabella delves into this strange history, she makes friends with a child ghost, Angelo, and finds a journal of Chiara's to help her to fill in the story and discover she is Chiara's daughter and Ambrosia and Bronzini's grandchild.

After Chiara left the orphanage, she was sent to a boarding school, and then she went on to India, where she became involved with two men, Alexander, a pianist-turned-slum-schoolteacher and Max, Cabella's future guardian. Chiara had Cabella with Alexander, who then left India and never returned, not knowing of Cabella's existence. Max then took care of Chiara, Cabella, and Chiara's adopted Indian son, whom she found orphaned and alone. When Chiara became plagued with Indian fevers, Max took her and the children to Italy, where they lived in the villa in village of Cabella until Chiara's death. After Chiara passed, Max closed the villa up, sent Cabella's brother to boarding school, and took the then three-year-old Cabella to the UK with him.

As the film progresses, Cabella is reunited with her brother, Lord Jai, who marries Maria. Sophia continues to paint and ends up starting a relationship with Jai's friend, Fabian, while Giulia ends up with the first guy off the bus, a Captain Jack-type fellow with a strange sense of fashion who rekindles the belief that patience is a virtue (perhaps another bus?)! As for Cabella, she realizes that she has been and always will be loved, and that love is what led her home to her mother's house. In The Italian Key is a scene in which Chiara comes to Cabella, telling her that she and Max named her after the village so that she could find her way home and that she always has and always will be loved. Another reoccurring scene in the film is of a memory Cabella has of being in a sunflower field at three with her mother, Max, Jai, and Leo at five, calling her name. I like how this memory shows those who have, do, and will love her, encompassing her past, her present, and closing with the fellow she ends up with calling her name.

At the conclusion of The Italian Key, Cabella discovers that Leo is neither deaf nor mute, but that he promised her when she left at three, when he was five, he would not speak until she returned, and as Oscar Wilde states, "If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.” Leo quietly lives his life, running the local grocery, selling seedlings, planting trees, and finding happiness as Cabella declares, "You must have planted this [apple tree]. It will give food, shelter, and a home to so many living beings. Maybe that's how one can be happy, one day and one tree at a time." In his freer time, which he apparently takes rather than gets, Leo leaves baskets of food staples at Cabella's villa, takes naps on obliging hay bales, walks the countryside, or strums guitar in the hay-field (there are worse hobbies to have). At Maria and Jai's wedding, there is a humorous scene where Maria throws her flowers to the unmarried men in attendance, and Leo takes off running for it while the Bus Guy and Fabian just stand there, (lacking initiative or fearing commitment) while for Leo, apparently sixteen years of waiting was enough.

The Italian Key shows that a person should never drown in themselves and that they should live fully in the moment for good with the presence of intention. Overall, I cannot recommend The Italian Key highly enough as it is a beautiful work of art and a lovely film for all ages with nice characters who try to do the right thing—an admirable trait in an admirable film that is truly a joy to watch and a quiet, cinematographic triumph! Please click the image below to go to the film directly!!

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