Starring: Claudio Bisio, Alessandro Siani, Valentina Lodovini
Director: Luca Miniero
Running Time: 102 mins
Welcome To The South (Benvenuti al Sud) is an Italian film about a Northern man with dreams of transferring to Milan who is dealt a slap in the face when he is transferred to a small seaside town near Napoli, deep in the seemingly lawless South of Italy.
An absolute riot from start to finish, filled to the brim with fantastic comedy, energetic performances, excellent running gags as well as a surprisingly sweet and engaging story, Welcome To The South was a huge surprise for me, and it’s such an entertaining and relentlessly funny movie that I can’t recommend highly enough.
Let’s start with what the main focus of this film is: the north-south divide in Italy. Given that this is an Italian domestic production, it’s not something that’s explained explicitly, so it may seem initially inaccessible to foreign viewers.
However, if you know about the subject, you’ll adore the comedy here, and even if you don’t, here’s a simple explanation. The film revolves around a Northerner with perceptions of the South as a lawless hellscape, hence why he wears a bulletproof jacket on the way there and is immediately distrusting of everything and everyone around him.
On the other hand, the Southern characters represent the view of the North as a slightly pretentious and arrogant culture, and with their relatively rigid rules and way of life, doesn’t have the same interpersonal emotions and flair that the South does.
Once you’ve got that understood, this film is an absolute riot at every moment. Perfectly striking a balance between poking fun at both the North and the South, as well as an extra dose of the charming but unintelligible Neapolitan accent, this film is a clear, consistent and riotously funny comedy that takes its simple running joke to brilliant lengths to keep you laughing right until the end.
And then there are the performances, which also play a big part in making the comedy and the focus on the North-South divide work so well. In the lead role, Claudio Bisio is fantastic, playing up the stereotypically snooty Northern persona, starring with some excellent physical comedy throughout, and doing a great job particularly in the early stages of making you just as uneasy about landing in the allegedly chaotic South, teeing up the film’s main theme perfectly from the start.
Alongside Bisio are a slew of more hugely entertaining performances from those playing the Southern characters. Whether it be someone a little more normal yet still full of Southern quirks, like Alessandro Siani and Valentina Lodovini, or one of the side characters who speaks with an accent that’s barely intelligible to even Italians, there are always some heartily entertaining performances across the board to make you laugh wherever you look.
And it’s the Southern characters that bring me on to my final point, and the part of the film that was a real surprise. While the most memorable element of Welcome To The South is taking the mick out of the country’s geographical divide, there’s actually a surprisingly sweet and heartwarming story that develops throughout.
Centring on the Northerner coming to understand the ways of the people in the South, and seeing them as kind and welcoming people rather than the mafioso criminals that he expected, you get a wonderful development of the main character over the course of the film, and it adds just a little bit of heart to the film that makes it that bit more special.
Overall, I absolutely loved Welcome To The South. Above all, it’s a riotously funny comedy that takes Italy’s North-South divide and runs with it ingeniously for nearly two hours, and with excellent performances across the board and a both entertaining and heartwarming story, it’s a film that you can have a huge amount of fun with, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.4.