Easy Living (Orso Miyakawa and Peter Miyakawa, 2019): Italy

Reviewed by Justin Tuttle.  Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2020.

This is a must see and one of my favorite feature films at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival.  A captivating story of an American tennis instructor with a strong libido, a beautiful female pharmaceutical boarder smuggler, her younger step brother, and a refugee which is centered around his desire to sneak across the Italian/French border to reconnect with his wife and child.

Easy Living was directed and written by brothers Orso and Peter Miyakawa.  The cast included the lead Maneol Hudec (Don, the tennis instructor), who has acted in other films; interestingly starting out as Leonardo DiCaprio’s stand-in for The Aviator and The Departed movies.  Playing opposite was Camilla Semino Favro (Camilla, the smuggler and Don’s love interest).  Alberto Boubaker Malanchino (Elvis, the refugee); cast in the Netflix production “Summertime” as well as the new series “Medical Report.”  Rounding out the cast was James Miyakawa (Brando, young friend of Elvis) who is a second year student at Manzoni High School in Milan, Italy.

Set along the beautiful Italian seaside town of Ventimiglia, which boarders France.  Young Brando comes to spend the holiday with his older stepsister Camilla who isn’t immediately receptive to sharing her life and activities with him.  She makes her living smuggling medicines and alcohol from France to Italy and reselling it for a profit.  One day she catches the eye of Don, a tennis coach at the Ventimiglia Tennis Club.  Don, a free spirited “easy living” man, has a penchant for charming his married female clients into sex with him.  In a hilarious scene, Camilla is topless sunbathing at the beach when the camera pans to Don whose head is bobbing in the waves while staring at Camilla’s breasts.  She notices him, covers up and he exits the water to talk to her while he uncomfortably stands there talking to her in tiny swim trunks (commonly known in the states as a Speedo).

Eventually Don, Camilla, and her brother get to know each other and Camilla softens her initial distain for Don.  They connect with Elvis, a refugee with a charm about him and the four of them become good friends.  They learn Elvis wants to sneak across the patrolled boarder between Italy and France to meet up with his family.  The group hatched plans to smuggle him across and the movie follows this goal.  The cinematography included many picturesque scenes of the Italian Riviera.

The acting is smooth and professional.  I felt a distinct connection with each actor due to the superb acting throughout the movie.

I had the chance to meet the Miyakawa brothers in a small setting during a film class and during a subsequent panel.  They were interesting and I even learned that one attended UCSB, studying film as well as psychology.  They spent time sharing in depth about the movie making process and what lead them to write the story.  Their family (including actor James Miyakawa) also came out and it was nice to meet the rest of them who I am sure were very proud of the work they did on this film.  As I noted above this was a great film and well worth seeing.

(Orso and Peter Miyakawa Q&A with Santa Barbara City College Instructor Nico Maestu, January 21, 2020)

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