The Salt of Life (2011) – otherwise known as Gianni e le donne (Gianni and Women) – is a light, warm-hearted Italian comedy starring, written and directed by the delightfully funny Gianni Di Gregorio. Gianni can count himself as middle-aged – just. Retired, he spends most of his time helping out the numerous women in his life, ranging from visiting his wealthy and demanding mother, doing chores for his estranged wife and walking a St. Bernard for his young and beautiful neighbour Kristina (Kristina Cepraga).
Gianni rapidly comes to the realisation the he has aged, that the world he once knew is no more and, most painfully of all, women are no longer interested in him. With the zealous encouragement of his friend Alfonso (Alfonso Santagata), Gianni tries to turn back the tides of time and recapture his youth.
The Salt of Life is an engaging film about accepting – or rather not accepting – the process of growing old. Gianni is essentially a man-child who, unlike his fellow protagonist, is actually sweet at heart and merely wants to find some love and appreciation.
Di Gregorio’s portrayal has pitch-perfectly captured the problem of men in their senior years feeling redundant, leaving them with the desire to recapture a little of the joie de vivre that youth provides. The film’s comic elements are superb and rarely off-kilter, with some exceptional moments of comedic timing (at one point the beautiful Kristina tells Gianni, “You were in my dream last night…I dreamt you were my grandfather.”).
The exploration of growing old and of fading youthfulness are exemplified through a host of younger characters, all of whom are portrayed as carefree, 24-hour-party people. In contrast to this are the groups of old men walking their toy dogs and sitting on street corners discussing the latest football results. The balance is carefully represented; occasionally it parodies itself by allowing the odd dip into cliché but always in a way that adds, rather than detracts from the film.
Alongside Nanni Moretti, Di Gregorio is perhaps the nearest Italian cinema has come to having its own Woody Allen-type figure, and The Salt of Life is a pleasure to watch from beginning to end, if nothing particularly remarkable.