It’s A Wonderful Italian Life

Feast of the Seven Fishes is a delightful holiday movie nostalgically made for the Christmas season. It’s a personal love letter to an Italian family’s Christmas traditions during the 1980s, set in a friendly working-class neighborhood. In West Virginia, Fairmont’s mining community attracted Italian immigrant workers and their families for generations.

With a keen eye on period detail and a great cast of familiar faces, director Robert Tinnell’s Christmas romcom is heartwarming and has a touch of soul often lacking in today’s Hollywood. Younger actors Skyler Gisondo, Madison Iseman, Addison Timlin, and Josh Helman are the leads. Many of the supporting characters are played by familiar character actors – Paul Ben-Victor, Joe Pantoliano, and Ray Abruzzo, among others. Not to mention Lynn Cohen, playing an elderly matron from the old country who only speaks in English when it suits her for hilarious results.

Days before Christmas, the extended Oliverio family readies their feast of the seven fishes for Christmas Eve, an Italian tradition celebrated in the local community. The gathering is eagerly anticipated by the family as several generations gather around the dinner table and share the meal. Tony and his cousin Angelo (delightfully played by Andrew Schulz) have a double date planned, looking for a little love before Christmas.

… with tender love, honest drama and memorable characters, Feast of the Seven Fishes is the best new holiday movie in years

Tony Oliverio (Skyler Gisondo) is a young man contemplating his future path, whether working at his family’s local restaurant or attending art school as a painter. Playing up the class differences, working-class Tony meets beautiful Ivy Leaguer Beth (Madison Iseman), a WASP currently dating a wealthy student from her school. Encouraged by her best friend, Beth explores a romantic connection with Tony while on Christmas break and experiences the different world inhabited by Tony’s family.

Adapted from his own web comic, Tinnell crafts a deliciously warm piece of nostalgic pie. A more authentic Christmas experience than anything you’ll get from a Hallmark movie, Feast of the Seven Fishes is filled with heart and laughs. Tinnell hoped to preserve the rich cultural traditions he grew up with for future generations. He dives into the food scenes with real passion. For a minute you’ll think you’re watching the Food Network.

Madison Iseman and Skyler Gisondo have a believable enough romance but they aren’t asked to carry the entire movie. That is the superb ensemble cast’s job, ably playing friends and relatives of the Oliverio family. This is a Christmas movie about family and what the holiday means to this outrageous, but ultimately endearing, Italian American clan.

Rarely do Christmas movies have as much charm and authenticity as Feast of the Seven Fishes. Packed with tender love, honest drama and memorable characters, Feast of the Seven Fishes is the best new holiday movie in years. The Italian family’s holiday celebrations make for a wonderfully fun Christmas experience. The happily comfortable movie will have viewers gladly recalling their own fond Christmas dinners with friends and family.

Video

The main feature runs 99 minutes on a BD-50. Shout Factory encodes the 1080P video in AVC with top-notch parameters, flawlessly rendering the nigh immaculate cinematography. Sharp with a neutral tonality and flesh-tones, the 1.78:1 presentation has excellent definition.

There are no complaints in the pleasing presentation. This is largely outstanding picture quality shot with modern filmmaking tools. Clean video with few visible issues, this is a perfect transfer taken from a well-done digital intermediate.

The picture quality isn’t flashy but looks almost too good for a period piece – the only inconsistency comes when a few staged 8MM film clips highlight a throwback feel during the feast. Otherwise, clarity is high with top-quality detail. There are no issues with black levels and shadow delineation is sneakily good. It’s not demo material due to the setting and muted primary colors, but Feast of the Seven Fishes looks great.

Audio

5.1 DTS-HD MA audio provides fine fidelity and decent sound design for the largely restrained surround mix. Nice moments abound in the largely ordinary mix. Some seasonal Christmas music is heard throughout the film, nicely spread across the soundstage with presence and clarity.

Feast of the Seven Fishes is largely driven by dialogue, crisply reproduced without issue. Proper dynamics and occasional LFE make for sweet, punchy audio. Immersion isn’t a big deal, reserved for a select handful of scenes. Quite serviceable fare for a family holiday movie.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. Shout Factory continues to include a secondary stereo soundtrack in 2.0 DTS-HD MA.

Extras

Shout Factory digs up a fair set of special features for the indie production. Learn why Tinnell started this project in the first place, initially coming up with a free web comic no one wanted.

Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Robert Tinnell – What comes across here in this engaging solo commentary is how personal this project was for Tinnell. He points out background material on the production while discussing his influences and experiences making the movie.

Behind-The-Scenes Of Feast Of The Seven Fishes (17:05 in HD) – A fairly involved featurette with interviews given by Tinnell, most of the cast and behind-the-scenes footage. The cast seem genuinely happy to have made the movie and apparently it was a family atmosphere on set.

Personal Photo Gallery (02:54 in HD) – Tinnell’s own photos from the production play without sound.

The Game (13:13 in HD) – A short film By Robert Tinnell about youth football and childhood in the local community. Technically unrelated to the main feature but Tinnell plays with some things as a developing filmmaker.

Theatrical Trailer (02:17 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Feast of the Seven Fishes
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

A warm Christmas delight with love and humor, recalling the glories of Christmases past as an Italian family celebrates the holiday in style.

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User Review
4.67 (3 votes)

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