the uncles(2000)
director: jim allodi
chris owens, kelly harms, dino tavarone, veronica hurnik

. As a young man, Martin Scorsese once directed a film called Italianamerican. It was a slight, youthful effort, but it had all the themes the director would explore in his later work. Jim Allodi’s debut feature, The Uncles, might well have been called Italiancanadian. It’s more substantial than Scorsese’s film and might, with time, be the beginning of as substantial a career.

Shot in the tightly-packed townhouses that line the residential streets near Toronto’s Little Italy, it follows John (Chris Owen), a dutiful son supporting his family years after their father walked out. His younger brother Marco would rather hang out than attend the school he’s paying for, and his simpleminded sister’s raging maternal instinct has inspired her to start stealing neighbour’s babies. The imminent collapse of his fragile world is hardly helped by the fact that he’s having an affair with his boss’ daughter-in-law.

It’s set in the conflicted, insecure world of the children of immigrants, a familiar one for Canadians under thirty these days, and Allodi portrays it without mawkish sentiment or convenient cliches of “hardworking people” or colourful ethnicity. 

Owens and Kelly Harms as Marco play brothers with just the right mix of affection and dismay. Their offhanded machismo poorly conceals the fact that their lives are run by the women around them. The meagre budget precludes overt slickness, but Allodi measures his resources carefully and steers the film to an ending that, while hardly upbeat, feels satisfying.