IFF 2014: The Mafia Only Kills in Summer REVIEW


The Mafia Only Kills in Summer reviewed as part of the 2014 Lavazza Italian Film Festival. Click HERE for screening information and to purchase tickets.


Cosa Nostra was the mafia of Sicilia, and Toto Riina was the leader of a war against the state from 1980 to 1990, engaging in murder after murder.

The Mafia Only Kills in Summer is a movie positioned between comedy and a kind of political-minded cinema, which might be explained by director Pierfrancesco Diliberto’s years as a TV animator. The film opens with a sequence of grotesque, laughable scenes, which slow down a bit towards the end, and the pure Italian excitement and comedy is beautifully kept throughout.

The story focuses on Arturo (played by the director, a dead-ringer for Jason Biggs’ Jim Levenstein from American Pie), narrating his life from birth, focusing on his days as a child (Alex Bisconti) and his entering into adulthood, struggling with his job as a journalist.

The director has interestingly chosen to recount the life of his protagonist by depicting him as the mafia’s collateral damage ““ starting with his conception. Indeed, while his parents were consummating their marriage, a shoot-out occurred right under them. But if the mafia helped his spermatozoid win the race (as he childishly narrates it), they ruined a lot of his opportunities to conquer the heart of his young love, Flora (Ginevra Antona), who he decides to never forgive even after she chooses to fly to Switzerland because of political turmoil. Nevertheless, he will see her years after and discover that she (now played Cristiana Capotondi) has become the assistant of political figure, Salvatore Lima (Salvatore Borghese).


We move from tragic events orchestrated by the mafia, with the violence being trivialised from the eyes of a curious child, to a journalist more interested in seducing his lover than reporting what is actually happening in his country. A clever paradox, allowing the director to meticulously use real footage of interviews, news, crime scenes, and the like, to create a sort of balance between fiction and documentary, between comedy and seriousness, between entertaining the spectator and sending subliminal messages.

“The mafia only kills in summer,” says Arturo’s father to his son, reassuringly reminding him of Slavoj Zizek’s theory of the Law. Arturo’s father reminds us of Roberto Benigni’s father from Life is Beautiful, the way he tries to protect his son from potential trauma. Our protagonist will soon discover that the mafia kills whenever they want and that they will soon continue to affect his love life, but will it only be negatively?

Pierfrancesco Diliberto has given birth to an exhaustive and exciting first movie, where you get attached to its main character, empathise with him, and want him to accomplish his quest of love despite the pervasive political and social situations. The Mafia Only Kills in Summer is pure Italian comedy, one with an overwhelming tenderness and an incentive to expand political and social consciousness, both national and international.


– K.Z.