As I viewed the film, I was immediately reminded, both in theme and in tone, of Life is Beautiful, the 1997 film by Roberto Benigini. Thematically, both films deal with serious, dangerous, ultimately tragic issues at the same time as they tell the tale of a man in love with a woman far out of his league. In The Mafia Only Kills in the Summer, these juxtaposed circumstances are demonstrated by the leading man, Arturo, chasing after his love, Flora, ever since the pair were in elementary school. As their relationship grows, so too does the presence of the Mafia in their lives. This echoes the at first subtle but then all out destructive presence of the Nazis in Life is Beautiful. As children, the Mafia are but a rumor, much like monsters that might live beneath the bed. But as the characters age and realize the gravity of the situation, they begin to actually feel the full effects of Italy's Mafia dilemma. Though at some times I will say I did find the love story and the overarching Mafia plot to be at odds with each other for emotional importance or in driving the plot, the interplay between the two story lines does create an element of urgency and excitement to the personal interactions throughout the film. Much as in Life is Beautiful, we want very much to see our lovestruck hero win over the girl of his dreams, but we are also concerned with the looming threat of violence.
I could tell as I watched that this was certainly someone's brainchild, and upon further investigation found out that Pif had indeed written and directed it, as well as played the leading man. While at first my over-critical mind considered this something of a problem, after some reflecting I must say that it made the movie artistically pure and heart-felt. The importance of the Mafia issues as well as Pif's sentimental, romantic heart come through very strongly in the film. Thus, though I myself have not had to live through the ordeal that is Mafia violence, I am sure that many people who have can identify strongly with this film, as even I felt a sense of the reality and horror of the events. It connects directly to the emotions of its viewer, and does not just bluntly relay the facts of the incidents. The Senate President of Italy even referred to it as the most beautiful Mafia movie he has ever seen.
Overall, a cinematographically beautiful movie with a moving and touching story of innocence and love in a time of terrible fear and violence.