Michael Winterbottom is certainly one of the more interesting directors working in the UK today, as well as one of the most productive. Genova tells the story of Joe (Colin Firth) and his two daughters, Mary and Kelly (Perla Haney-Jardine and Willa Holland) who, after the death of their mother in a car accident, relocate to Genova in Italy. Mary, the younger of the two, struggles psychologically with the loss, experiencing hallucinations of her mother, while the adolescent Kelly dives headlong into a summertime romance and generally behaves as irresponsible teenager, frequently leaving her sister alone in the city.
Colin Firth and Catherine Keener are the two older heads in the cast, and both put in generally good-quality shifts, but it’s the two girls who really shine, bringing a solid weight to the process of childhood grief. There is an improvised feel to Genova, as is common in Winterbottom’s work (see: The Trip and The Trip to Italy, where Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon dick around in restaurants), and combined with the hand-held roving camera, there’s a well-grounded naturalistic feel to proceedings. However, this same loose feel also means Genova lacks an overall structure or mood. Things happen, conflicts occur, and then the film just…ends without any concrete emotional payoff. Solid, if rather forgettable.