By Jeff Walsh
"Ciao" begins simply, as we see an e-mail exchange between two men concerning Mark, who recently died.
Jeff is Mark's best friend. After Mark's death, he has been taking care of wrapping up the loose threads of Mark's life. It is during that period that he sees incoming e-mail from Andrea, an Italian guy excited to be visiting America soon, especially since he is coming to see Mark for three days in Dallas, Texas.
Jeff has to tell Andrea (who Mark never told him about) that Mark died in a car accident and, after several back and forth exchanges, Jeff says Andrea is welcome to still visit Dallas, if he wants. So of course, he does.
The movie, which opens in San Francisco and Berkeley today, doesn't delve into any wild flights of fancy. The two don't fall madly in love, or anything else predictable. Most of their time together is awkward, since they are both strangers and solely united by death and sustained by small talk.
Mark is always the third unseen character in the room. Andrea can see where Mark lived, and hear stories about his life from a best friend, but he'll never meet the real person. Jeff used to be attracted to Mark, but the feeling wasn't mutual, and now he's entertaining a guy from half a world away who was able to connect with his friend on a level he once wanted to, but never could.
On premise alone, the movie could easily be a dirge, snore, or trite pity party. But it has a certain assured, low key charm that holds your attention and rewards your time. The actors are both well-cast, and able to tap into an honest place that few movies explore.
The characters in the movie come together through grief. But it's certainly not the feeling I had at the end of watching this sweet film.
The movie website is at http://www.ciaomovie.com/
Screening information for upcoming cities is at http://www.ciaomovie.com/#/screenings/4527922028