The film is semi-autobiographical, with Di Gregorio playing the part of Gianni and some of his real life relatives portraying the familial characters. The film is set in the beautiful Roman suburb of Trastevere, where Di Gregorio himself grew up, whilst also taking us to the bustling streets of the capital. These contrasting locations often serve to mirror the placid nature of the protagonist as well as the growing frustrations that brew underneath his calm, gentlemanly exterior.
With his marriage stale and his life seemingly directionless, Gianni embarks on a desperate mission to find romance, gazing at the many young beauties that cross his path on daily walks with his dog. Gianni’s lawyer friend (and wannabe Casanova) Alfonso – played by Alfonso Santafata - urges him to be more forthright in his attempts to score with the ladies. His advice, however, repeatedly lands Gianni in some pretty comical situations that usually also end up with his wallet being considerably lighter. The slapstick elements are underscored by the recurring entry of a musical theme on the accordion, which also adds to the Italian make-up of the film. A particularly humorous touch is the frequent sight of Gianni walking his glamorous young neighbour’s huge St Bernard, which looks like some kind of jungle beast in comparison to Gianni’s own tiny dog scurrying alongside it. It is easy to see how such a ridiculous image was simply too hard for the director to resist.
Whilst Gianni grapples with the hopes and disappointments of love, the film also centres on the domineering influence of his elderly mother, who is oblivious to the affects that her frivolous spending habits and unreasonable demands are having on her son. This element, however, like Gianni’s failed romantic conquests, is portrayed with a healthy balance of comedy and seriousness, which makes both characters (and indeed their relationship) seem all the more human and believable. It is this latter aspect which runs throughout The Salt of Life and results in a true gem of a film. It powerfully portrays the difficulty of getting older in life, without being sentimental or tipping over into farce. Indeed, Di Gregorio’s film is full of warmth, humour and hope. A real pleasure to watch and an out-and-out triumph.