15 Amore
Vanguard // Unrated // $29.99 // June 24, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted July 27, 2003
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Movie: In the last world war, people all over the globe had to adapt to strange circumstances as set by the policies of their various countries. In Australia, Italian prisoners of war that were deemed low risk, were placed in work programs where they could contribute to the local economy by assisting citizens that had fathers, husbands, and old males off fighting the war. Throw in a bit of romance and you have the basis for the little independent movie, 15 Amore.

Director/Writer Maurice Murphy takes a look, albeit a romanticized version, of his youth as a child growing up during WWII in Australia, who had a couple such POW's assisting his family during the war. The movie started 3 years into the occupation of his family home in the Australian countryside by two men, Alfredo (Steve Bastoni) and Joseph (Domenic Galati) who are regularly checked upon by a local military officer. Dad was off making the world safe from the evil axis (Germany, Japan, and Italy) and the men were put to work doing all the things Dad would've done, as well as menial chores. The arrangement is pleasant for all concerned and over time the family, particularly Mom, Dorothy (Lisa Hensley), had accepted the men as part of the family. Soon after the start of the movie establishes the relationship between everyone, a couple of immigrants from Germany, a mother, Madam Gutman (Gertraud Ingeborg), and daughter, Rachel (Tara Jakszewicz), who have questionable loyalties are placed on the homestead as part of the government program.

The men become so close to the ladies, Alfredo with Dorothy and Joseph with Rachel, with Dorothy remaining faithful to her husband, that it's only a matter of time before something bad happens between the day to day routine that all of them fall into. The problem comes when the war ends and Gutman decides to protect the lost honor of her daughter, keeping her from following her heart in favor of an Italian peasant, and now former POW.

The first 80% of the movie was well scripted and flowed fairly well. It wasn't until the accusation near the end that the whole movie started to unravel and become another mindless melodrama that would've been right at home in Hollywood or in a TV movie of the week. The acting of the principle actors was solid and the small routine everyone followed was actually more interesting on it's face than any forced drama at the end. Even the arrival of the father was anti-climatic instead of the chance to really shine.

I liked the fact that the story kept Dorothy and Alfredo apart. All too often directors take the easy route and just have such characters sleep together. Had he done that, it would've ruined the movie's appeal for me. The narration that popped up every once in awhile to explain some of the more subtle aspects of life in the situation actually assisted this time, being less obtrusive than most such cases in low budget independent movies.

The technical aspects of the movie were good enough to further the story but again, I can't wholeheartedly recommend this one as anything more than a Rent It, due to the limitations described above. I would've liked an audio commentary by the director here since while I gained some insight into the mind of that young boy who grew up to direct this movie, I'd have preferred he detail where his fiction enhanced the reality of what really happened. I got the feeling that he left a lot out that was pertinent to the story, and when it shows, it leaves the viewer with that uneasy feeling that the movie either lied to him or at least distorted the facts outside of the premise.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. There weren't many artifacts but the fleshtones were often off enough to bother me as were the other colors. The grain was also minimal but the loss of sharpness made too many scenes blurred or at least less clear than I'd have liked.

Sound: The sound was presented in a 5.1 track but I got the feeling that the audio was simply a stereo 2.0 track placed in the 5.1 format. I did notice some separation in the channels when I donned on a pair of headphones though and the soundtrack was subtle yet pleasant too.

Extras: trailer only

Final Thoughts: Worth a rental for it's lush landscape and initial storyline, the movie had some decent acting by the principles and heart-just not enough to carry the weak ending. It did whet my appetite to learn more about the POW program Australia had in place during WWII though.

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