Astolfo (Never Too Late For Love), the newest comedy from director, co-writer, and star Gianni Di Gregorio, is a charming, albeit predictable, romance between Astolfo (played by Gregorio), a retired professor returning to his hometown, and the widowed Stefania (Stefania Sandrelli), whose days are spent looking after her family.
Astolfo’s landlord politely evicts him from his apartment in Rome, so he packs up his shabby car to drive back to his small hometown, where the property in his name, once a stunning palace, is now siphoned off, with a literal brick wall built in the middle. One side is occupied by a priest, and Astolfo’s side filled with dust and run-down appliances. As he readjusts to small-town living, he collects a funny gang of misfits – a squatter, an old man who helps him out at the market, and the guy who repairs the gas stove – who have nothing else to do but hang around, play cards, and eat pasta in Astolfo’s kitchen. No one even comments on this phenomenon; these men just gradually accumulate within Astolfo’s home.
Astolfo’s flashier and more suave cousin Carlo tricks him into going on a double-date, introducing him to the lovely Stefania, the cousin of the woman Carlo is seeing. It takes some coaxing, but Carlo convinces Astolfo to text and continue seeing Stefania. Her routine is to look after her grandchildren, picking them up and feeding them after school, and she doesn’t seem to have much freedom outside her family obligations. The two are on opposite sides of responsibility; Astolfo is a man almost lost, without a clear sense of purpose, while Stefania is tied down, with too much depending on her.
Much of the film is sunny and light – leaning into the stunning Abruzzo setting, with its charming piazza and lush landscapes, as Astolfo settles into this new chapter of life, and of love, with Stefania. The visual shift is all the more striking after Stefania’s adult children tell her to break it off with Astolfo, believing him to be a money-grabber, and she’s shown contemplating her future within a cold, shadowy kitchen that once was full of warmth.
Outside of the romance, the other plot elements don’t feel quite as developed; the tensions between Astolfo and his priest neighbor, plus his land disputes with the buffoonish mayor, don’t ring as compelling as the love story, since the stakes don’t have as great an impact on Astolfo. Our window into his life, what he’s used to, and what he deserves, are so brief in the film’s setup that his return to Abruzzo doesn’t feel particularly lacking, that his life is missing something great he once had. These supporting plotlines could be meant as light comic relief, or adding salt to the wound of Astolfo’s feeling that he’s cursed, but it feels like a distraction from the more enriching, sweet love story at Astolfo’s core.
It’s pretty easy to tell where Astolfo is going, but it’s no less a pleasant romance between two adults who realize that, even later in life, they deserve to find connection and happiness.
Astolfo (Never Too Late For Love) is a nominee at the 2023 David di Donatello awards. Check out the full nominations list here!