Coming out in Italian cinemas on Valentine's Day, but with very little romance included, There Is No Place Like Home is the eleventh film by Gabriele Muccino (The Last Kiss), and marks a definitive return to Italy after a stint in America (The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds, Playing for Keeps, Fathers and Daughters). A film that couldn’t be more choral, with twenty actors permanently on screen in one location (a beautiful house by the sea in Ischia). A setting that morphs into a sort of prison for the members of a large and seemingly united family who gather to celebrate the gold wedding anniversary of their grandparents, before finding themselves trapped on the island for longer than expected due to rough seas. A crescendo of tensions that the Roman director handles in his own way, with the excessive pathos that often characterises his work – and for which you’ll either love him or hate him – while also containing some subtler honest moments with which we can all easily identify. 

Keeping the peace, balance and smiles all round when we meet up as family is all about timing, Muccino seems to be telling us. Everything would have been fine for the protagonists in this film, which he wrote with PaoloCostella, if the ferry to take them back to the mainland had left on time and returned them all to their own lives, safe and sound behind the comfort of their facades. Of course, potential tensions were in the air all day, such as jealousies harking back to times gone by, social envy, different life choices and forbidden loves, but after some beautiful singing around the piano – both choral and liberating – everything had the potential to end well, without any serious consequences. Instead, as Bertè once said in her famous song, "this wind shakes me too." Connections with the mainland are interrupted, themes of cohabitation are drawn out and the storm arrives, both outside and inside the house. 

There are so many – perhaps too many – characters and plots to follow in this drama in which no role dominates over the other, and deliberately so. There’s the mother who dreams of a united family (Stefania Sandrelli) and the father who cannot wait for everyone to disappear (Ivano Marescotti), the cheating husband and the deluded wife (Giampaolo Morelliand Sabrina Impacciatore), the non-conformist son with a weakness for his cousin (Stefano Accorsi and Elena Cucci), the couple expecting a child without a penny to their name (Gianmarco Tognazzi and Giulia Michelini), the Alzheimer's patient and his exasperated wife (Massimo Ghini and Claudia Gerini), the divorcee (Pierfrancesco Favino) stuck in the middle between his current wife and his ex (Carolina Crescentini and Valeria Solarino), teenagers experiencing their first love (Elisa Visari and Renato Raimondi), the old aunt (Sandra Milo) and many children, in a waltz of personal and interpersonal situations that, due to unforeseen events, flow into a whirlwind of recriminations and sequence shots that chase the actors around at 360 degrees, or linger on their screaming, crying faces (the director of photography is the American DoP Shane Hurlbut who also worked with the director on Fathers and Daughters).

A truly Muccinian film, spasmodic, visceral and exaggerated at times, aiming to sound out the complexity of the human soul and relationships – between unfinished lives, the pursuit of happiness, hypocrisy and compromise – via the family unit, a place we flee but always return to, where the people who should know us better than anybody don’t really know us at all, and where it’s easy to hide the truth and then spit it back in each other’s faces in the worst way possible.

Produced by Lotus Production with Rai CinemaThere Is No Place Like Home will be in Italian cinemas from Wednesday 14 February with the company 01 Distribution, which will be distributing more than 500 copies.