The Truth of Love and Cheese: "Stefano Formaggio", Directorial Debut of Darren Darnborough ("True Blood")

Genre: Romantic Drama
Length- 20:00
Company: Filmed Imagination
Website: Official

Wealthy Italian cheese merchant Stefano (Pasquale Cassalia) produces only the finest of culinary delights.  He is so good at what he does, and so good looking that women flock from miles around to be in his presence.  Jasmine (Alice Greczyn), a local florist, and her very pregnant sister, Olivia (Mandy Amano) are the latest females to fall under Stefano's spell.

Stefano wants a woman with children . . . or more specifically, a pregnant woman -- and not to marry, either.

He wants them for an altogether more sinister reason.

"Stefano Formaggio" is the directorial debut of actor Darren Darnborough ("True Blood", Darkness Descends), who also handled writing duties for the short.  Visually, what he accomplishes is nothing short of gorgeous: each scene unfolds carefully in lavish, flowery surroundings.  Hallgrim Haug is the cinematographer, and he deserves a high five from everyone involved in this film because it really is a treat for one's eyes.

Since I'm bringing up Haug, we might as well go into the crew for a moment.  Darnborough was surrounded by an incredible group of people, ranging from Emmy winners (production designer Alex Fymat and editor Katie Hetland) to Tony winners (executive producer Charles Salameno) and everything in between.  As a result, the apparent production values on "Stefano Formaggio" are off the charts -- this film could roll in your local cineplex and you'd never know the difference.

The cast also performs well.  Greczyn as Jasmine pulls off the most real and heartfelt performance of the lot.  Cassalia's turn as Stefano was overall well done, but at times -- in particular during the date scene with Greczyn -- he felt like he was overdoing the whole "Look at me, I'm a charming guy" thing.  I'd also like to point out that fault lies also with the writing -- Cassalia doesn't have a lot to work with for this role.

Now, digging even deeper, I felt that the twenty minute running time was far too long.  Beautiful the film might be, but it took far too long to get going, and the conclusion was extremely fast and a vast tonal shift from the almost fantastical romance of the other three quarters of the film. 

Writing: 3 / 5.  Darnborough's script touches on a lot of elements -- in particular, our anxiety of dating people you don't know and the inherent dangers of intimacy.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I much enjoyed the finale, even though the darkness of it felt like a different movie entirely.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Darnborough hits a home run with this film.  Every frame is filled with beautiful scenery and exquisitely staged action. 
Editing: 3 / 5.  The film feels way too long considering the story being told, and the pacing suffers because of it.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  "Sway", by Mooi, was a nice thematic companion to the film and also a good song on its own merits.  The sound design was professional and effective.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Greczyn and Cassalia do well and they had a certain chemistry onscreen.  Amano felt forced, particularly in the scenes where she attempts to seduce Stefano.  Amelia Jackson-Gray pops up for a little in the beginning of the film and puts on a good show.

Final Grade: 3.5 / 5.

Visit the official website and check out the full short by clicking right here!  After a successful festival run, I'm thrilled to see it on the Internet.  Enjoy!

Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

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