Director: Alessio Maria Federici
Writer: Martino Coli
Starring: Matilde Gioli, Giuseppe Maggio, Matteo Martari, Tommaso Basili, Flavio Furno
Netflix is starting the year on a strong note with Four to Dinner, a sweet and sentimental romantic story that asks the question whether soul mates are real or not. It adds a new twist on the rom-com genre, while at the same time staying within the safe formula of the genre.
The story is framed as a dinner party, where four of the guests are still to arrive. While they are waiting, the topic of soul mates crops up and Luca (Flavio Furno), who doesn’t believe in the idea, starts to tell a story that will once and for all confirm that soul mates aren’t real. He tells the story about how he and his wife invited four people over for dinner one night, with the idea of setting them up with each other, although they don’t agree on which pairing makes the most sense. The story then splits into two, with the two different pairings being played out over a year or so.
The story is then told through two different timelines. One where Daario (Giuseppe Maggio) ends up with Chiara (Ilenia Pastorelli) and Matteo (Matteo Martari) is with Guilia (Matilde Gioli). Then the other is Daario is paried up with Guilia and Matteo is with Chiara. Both stories are told simultaneously and even at the end it is ambiguous which version of the events actually happened, and it’s left up to you to make your mind up who is better suited for who.
Luca’s point is that no one is destined to be with one person, and that anyone could be your perfect partner. Anyone can be perfect for someone. It’s presented throughout as a hopeful and positive message, because through whichever timeline you choose to believe is real each couple has their ups and downs and they all work for different reasons. Being with either partner changes them all, setting them on different life paths, even if some of the events are the same.
It is a little strange that Luca has devised a completely different timeline if his friends ended up dating the other person, just to prove his point. Both stories are given equal time and are detailed. Judging from his wife, Sara’s (Marta Gastini) reaction when he starts to tell the story, this isn’t the first time he’s played it out, so it’s as ambiguous as the ending how long he’s spent thinking about how his friends would react to scenarios if they we with the opposite partner.
While the film is a rom-com with some funny moments, it’s completely grounded and there’s no hint of the magical realism we’ve come to expect from the genre. It’s reflective and realistic, and it really feels fresh because of it. You’re completely invested in both sides of the events and while the premise could have come across as silly, it doesn’t at all.
Four to Dinner is a great little film that’s entertaining, sentimental and a little thoughtful at points. If you can get over the strangeness of the premise, then this is really worth watching. Hopefully Netflix can keep up this high level of quality for the rest of 2022.
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