Featuring in the Italian Film Festival program, The Mafia Only Kills in Summer is perfectly calibrated for a film festival audience, weaving a lightweight romantic comedy through a scaffolding of historical mafia murders in the Sicilian city of Palermo. The title is taken from an offhand comment made to young Arturo (played by Alex Bisconti as a child, and writer/director Pif as an adult) by his father, and hints at the level of denial required to exist in an Italy dominated by organised crime.
That crime scaffolding is effective, based in historical fact and defined by an escalating string of explosions and gunfire. I was less convinced by the romantic comedy elements, though. The first half of the film is given over to child actors who aren’t quite up to snuff, and when we return to Arturo’s crush on Flora (Cristiana Capotondi) a decade later, the material remains childish. Admittedly, this kind of hokey comedy – the pair talk surreptitiously about having “never done it before” before sitting down to write a political speech – will play well to a festival audience who’ve downed a couple wines. The real appeal, though, is the film’s gentle insight into growing up amongst the mafia.