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Couch Potatoes: When fathers feel misunderstood

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- The new film by Francesca Archibugi, the portrait of a difficult father-son relationshi, adapted from the novel by Michele Serra, stars Claudio Bisio and is out in Italian cinemas today

Couch Potatoes: When fathers feel misunderstood
Gaddo Bacchini and Claudio Bisio in Couch Potatoes

The title is suggestive of a generational film, the portrait of a lonely and inconsistent youth. However, Couch Potatoes [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the new bittersweet comedy by Francesca Archibugi, out in cinemas today, is above all the story of a misunderstood father. An adaptation of the book of the same name by Michele Serra (published by Feltrinelli), the director of Mignon Has Come to Stay and Il nome del figlio [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
tells the story, using Francesco Piccolo's screenplay, of the difficult relationship between a separated father and his teenage son, "an intimate and personal story that’s not to be generalised", emphasises Archibugi, but that nevertheless echoes a more universal clash between the "old" and the "young," between the children of '68 and so-called millennials, set to a backdrop of contemporary Milan, with its skyscrapers and forward-looking bourgeoisie. 

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"Past his use-by-date" is how the seventeen-year-old Tito (newcomer Gaddo Bacchini) describes his father, Giorgio (Claudio Bisio), with whom he spends half the week, as part of a shared custody agreement. A famous TV presenter, separated for years, Giorgio is appreciated by millions of viewers, but not by his son or the group of friends that often descends on his home, taking over the sitting room. Cheerful and boisterous with his group of friends, yet tender with his new girlfriend Alice (Ilaria Brusadelli), Tito always agrees with his mother (Sandra Ceccarelli) and has a strong bond with his grandfather (Ponzoni Cochi): it's only his father with whom he holds back, and Giorgio, overwhelmed by ghosts and guilty feelings, is left wondering where it all went wrong. "Maybe I ask too little of you," he tells the boy, while in the meantime calling him constantly, rummaging through his rubbish bin and forcing him on endless mountain walks, searching for intimacy via the control that seems to be slipping through his hands. One day, Rosalba (a surprising Milanese version of Antonia Truppo) arrives back on the scene, the "one that got away" for Giorgio, who turns out to be Alice's mother, and who seems to trigger something in Giorgio. And so, in addition to the misunderstandings with his son and his chronic lack of affection, Giorgio must also face terrible doubts about the paternity of the girl who Tito loves.

Having justly changed a lot of Serra's original story, which was structured as a series of letters written from father to son, Archibugi and Piccolo (along with other writers, such as Paolo Virzì who wrote the screenplay for The Leisure Seeker in competition at the last Venice Film Festival) add the boy's point of view to the film, however, the film ultimately remains focused on the parents' generation. Confused, fragile, and lacking in authority, parents who do not know how to approach their alien children, who are seemingly ready (in Giorgio's imagination) to form an army to defeat all of the old people and finally take over the world. An apocalyptic vision behind which an awareness of giving these young people enough space in life and at work hides. The film doesn't say all there is to say, it's a work of subtraction, omitting details, leaving some situations unresolved, which may perhaps leave some viewers feeling unconvinced; but it nevertheless remains very realistic in many aspects, be them both emotional and melancholy. 

Produced by Indiana Production and Lucky Red with Rai Cinema, Couch Potatoes comes out today, 23 November, in 380 Italian cinemas, distributed by Lucky Red. International sales are handled by True Colors.

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