Australian cinema has already seen Ali and Muriel getting married (to other people) but Promised takes a different approach. This dramedy, set in the 1970’s, is a look at an arranged marriage, starring a pair of Italo-Australians. The results are an imperfect story that brims with real heart.
It’s obvious that this independent film was a labour of love for first-time director and writer, Nick Conidi. He loosely bases the proceedings on his parent’s own life story. The idea of observing one of the last arranged marriages, in that specific culture, during the sexual revolution is an intriguing one. However, there are moments where things are a little too smooth and simple, and will require a suspension of disbelief from the audience. This is especially the case in those moments where the dialogue feels a tad stilted and clichéd.
The year is 1974 and this handsome film is gently evocative of that era. Angela (Antoniette Iesue) is an aspiring writer and university student. She dreams of a bigger life than the one her community expects of her. The latter believe that all she wants is marriage, kids and working in her parent’s pasticceria but Angela wants a lot more. She’s a strong-willed and intelligent character. She has read Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch and is hopelessly in love with her bad-boy boyfriend, Tom (Santo Tripodi).
Angela’s family had made a pact with a well-connected man named Pat (Stavros Psoras) when the former was just a baby. She was promised to Pat’s son, Robert because Angela’s father felt indebted to Pat. It turns out that Robert (the gorgeous, Daniel Berini) is a dream-boat. Robert is a clever man who has returned from to Melbourne from Oxford, where he had studied law. But he’s also too weak to stand up to his father. The youngsters clash with the traditional values that are forced upon them and the new culture that they are forging in Australia. It’s a sentiment that was also explored really well in Looking for Alibrandi.
Paul Mercurio (Strictly Ballroom) and Tina Arena star as Angela’s parents. The latter better known as a musician and she makes her film debut here. Arena proves that she has some serious acting chops, embodying the voice of reason amidst the chaos of the families. Arena the artist also features in the film’s soundtrack, including a heavenly recording of “Ava Maria.”
Promised is a rom-com that could have been insular and closed-off in its rendering. Instead, it’s actually a warm, relatable and heartfelt piece. This is a feel-good slice of escapism where it has the sweet message of love prevailing and finding a way. It’s a delightful romp, just don’t come in with huge expectations or expect anything too polished or tidy. Love is messy, after all.
THREE & A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Promised is now screening nationally at selected cinemas.