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A Summer in Genoa (2008)

Genova (original title)
2:15 | Trailer
A man moves his two daughters to Italy after their mother dies in a car accident, in order to revitalize their lives. Genova changes all three of them as the youngest daughter starts to see the ghost of her mother, while the older one discovers her sexuality.


Laurence Coriat (screenplay), Michael Winterbottom (screenplay)
2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Colin Firth ... Joe
Perla Haney-Jardine ... Mary
Willa Holland ... Kelly
Catherine Keener ... Barbara
Hope Davis ... Marianne
Margherita Romeo Margherita Romeo ... Rosa
Alessandro Giuggioli ... Lorenzo
Dante Ciari Dante Ciari ... Fabio
Gherardo Crucitti Gherardo Crucitti ... Gerry
Monica Bennati Monica Bennati ... Monica
Angelica Moretti Angelica Moretti ... Angelica
Carlo Moretti Carlo Moretti ... Carlo
Sara Stewart ... Susanna
James Laurenson ... Marianne's Father
Gary Wilmes ... Danny


How do children respond to tragedy? On an icy road near Chicago, Marianne dies in a crash, leaving Joe and their daughters, Kelly, about 16, and Mary, about 9. That summer, a friend from Joe's graduate student days, 20 years before, arranges a teaching job for him in Genoa. When they arrive in June, Joe starts teaching and the girls have the summer before school starts: Kelly quickly falls in with youths her age; their club and beach life leads to sexual awakening. Mary, burdened by guilt for her mother's death, is solitary. The girls take piano lessons, Mary draws, and she also sees and talks to her mother. Joe asks them, "Are you okay?", but is that enough? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


We all need a place to start again.


Drama | Mystery | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, some sexuality and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Diaphana [France]


UK | Sweden | Cayman Islands


English | Italian

Release Date:

27 March 2009 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

A Summer in Genoa See more »

Filming Locations:

Italy See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The sonnet being studied, which begins "When forty winters shall besiege thy brow / And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field", is Sonnet 2 by William Shakespeare. See more »


On their way from the airport, when they pass in the car in front of a fresco of Saint George fighting against the dragon, Ms. Keener says that Saint George is the Saint Patron of Genova. Now, it's true that Saint George has a strong link to the history of the city: the banner bears the cross of Saint George, in the middle ages the Bank which funded expeditions overseas (by the way it's the building that shows the fresco seen in the movie) was named after Saint George etc. but the Patron of Genova, since XIII century, is John the Baptist and he came to be after Genoese crusaders (First crusade) brought back from Holy Land his ashes, which are still kept in the Cathedral. See more »


Mary: Dad, it says here that Genoa used to be like the richest city in the world.
Joe: Really?
Mary: Well, yeah, they invented the bank and like all the money came to them.
See more »

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User Reviews

A pleasant and touching journey of discovery.
7 May 2009 | by OtobokeSee all my reviews

Genova opens up with a stark and confronting series of images; contrasted against the seemingly whimsy and light-hearted cold-opening, there comes a shocking and hard-hitting turn of events that serves as the catalyst for the ninety minutes that follow. Stricken by a tragedy to which a mother's two daughters are direct witness to, the tale of Genova is a harrowing but sincere and tangible piece. This somewhat bittersweet mixture of hope disquieted by despair and a sense of chaos and danger are prevalent to the entirety of Genova's story; it's an uplifting document infused with genuine pathos and touching degrees of catharsis that implement both character and themes of family, bonds and loss to establish what is for the most part a very coherent and sober character analysis.

In juxtaposition to the darker, more morbid themes inherent to the screenplay however is also a firm sense of hope and romanticism. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful city of Genoa in Italy, daughters Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine) and Kelly (Willa Holland) along with their widower father Joe (Colin Firth) set about making a new start away from the despair from their collective past. This of course allows both older sister Kelly and Joe to seek out relationships that serve as a way to lightly distract from the misfortune involving their mother and wife, and in turn allows Genova to shed a lighter, more hopeful melody. Yet such moments are certainly not without their stark reminders as to what these characters are inevitably running from. Within the character of Mary who is the younger of the sisters lies the most unsettling and reaffirming reminder of the accident. Unable to move on quite as readily as her father and sister, Mary begins seeing visions of her mother which usually results in her screaming in the middle of the night when her "ghost"—or memory—disappears.

This sense of claustrophobia is further explored through a variety of sequences, some of which are undoubtedly overdone and overexposed throughout the ninety minute runtime—yet they nevertheless serve an important purpose. Given that the story of Genova is largely character based, there is always cause for concern that the heavy-handed material and themes inherent to such analysis will lead to a slow-moving narrative serving only to alienate viewers. This is where director Michael Winterbottom's undertones of danger and ominous uncertainty helps create a much more flowing and engaging piece. While it could be argued that Winterbottom perhaps spoils the integrity of his film by resorting to such moments on more than a few occasions in what is a relatively short film; the vast majority works well with the more romanticised, sombre and restrained aspects of the feature to reflect the melancholic nature of the script.

What serves as the central component to Genova's story however, is undoubtedly its greatest attribute. Through the characters of Mary, Kelly, Joe and Joe's old-flame Barbara (Catherine Keener), key themes of family, strength through loss, and moving on after death can truly shine. Particularly engaging here is the combination of Firth with young actress Perla Haney-Jardine who shares a compelling and always tangible relationship as father and daughter that feels natural and sweet. Firth, who has up until now proved himself one of this country's finest and most mature of thespians, again delivers a performance that establishes a fine balance between remaining natural and yet always bursting with screen-presence and charisma. The same of course can be said with the remainder of the cast, with particular attention to Haney-Jardine who shows that even actors of her age group can succeed in delivering intelligent and emotionally resonant characters.

Performances aside however, Genova nevertheless succeeds because of the characters it offers those actors which in the end decide whether the movie will live or die in the eyes of audiences. Winterbottom here crafts an unassuming and disquieted feature that will no doubt fail to grasp the attention of some because of its slow-moving, almost non-existent plot—but for fans of intricate but not overly sentimental character drama, the majority of Genova will do little wrong. If there is one failing to the production it would be that despite the already short runtime, the feature as a whole feels too much for what should naturally be a much shorter and more concise story. Nevertheless, with strong compelling characters and a tale that always engages through those characters, Genova is a pleasant and touching journey of discovery that always feel human and genuinely invested in detailing one of the hardest parts of life through death itself.

  • A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)

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