The film ‘Road to the Lemon Grove’ brings an intimate look at its creators’ understanding of their own history. Co-written by its star Charly Chiarelli, musician and story-teller, and Dale Hildebrand, a highly experienced maker of films for cinema and television, its ninety-something minutes addresses the reality of growing up and living as an adult in an expatriate community – in this case, the Sicilian diaspora of greater Toronto.
Not content with his first feature co-write, Chiarelli plays multiple roles in his first feature as an actor. As Calogero, an established Canadian academic, the ghost of his recently-deceased father Antonio (also Chiarelli) requires him to return his father’s ashes, hence to the lemon grove in Sicily that he left behind to build a new life in Canada.
Ghostly father and son travel through Sicily together, bantering the differences that still remain between them. As a much-younger Antonio, Chiarelli appears in a flashback to the 1950s; he frequently breaks the fourth wall as narrator, then goes on to play a minor character in Sicily. Chiarelli’s versatility in his first feature film is impressive. Lemon grove is very much a vehicle for Chiarelli, but the ensemble Italo-Canadian cast all put in worthy performances. Italy’s prima ballerina, Rosella Brescia, makes a beguiling movie premiere (never apparently so) as an actress tired of paparazzi attention; Nick Mancuso plays a rare comedic role.