Being an American expat in London, I’m always interested in stories about my fellow Americans abroad. I enjoy meeting new acquaintances and hearing the story of how they made their way to their new country. I also love expat stories in all forms of media, from Hemingway novels to contemporary films. So when I was invited to a screening of The American, a new film about an American expat in Italy, I was happy to attend. The film doesn’t come out in theaters until Friday, so it was nice to get a sneak preview ahead of time.
I arrived at the screening rooms on Charlotte Street in time to grab a glass of wine and settle into my seat. I knew that the film was based on Martin Booth’s novel A Very Private Gentleman, was directed by Anton Corbijn, starred George Clooney, and was set in a picturesque Italian town in Abruzzo. I was excited to find out more.
The film began with a beautiful winter scene in Sweden (spoiler alert). After Clooney’s character, Jack, was chased down by assassins, he headed to Italy to seek refuge. There he took a job to construct a weapon for a mysterious woman. When not working, he spent his free time befriending the town priest, running from another assassin, and falling in love. When he eventually delivered the weapon to his client, it became evident that the client was tasked with killing Jack upon receipt of it. Danger ensued.
Watching The American from an expat perspective was interesting, not least to see how Clooney’s character interacted with and integrated into his adoptive town. From befriending the locals to dining in traditional restaurants and falling in love with an Italian girl, he settled in quickly for being in so small a place.
The scenes of the town and the surrounding countryside provided a beautiful backdrop to the film, and got me excited to travel to Italy again when the weather warms up. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about The American was that the plot line was a bit convoluted, making the story somewhat difficult to follow. It was one of those films that would be better on the second viewing.
The American film certainly portrayed a different kind of expat experience than most Americans have. Not many of us are on the run from assassins or tasked with making weapons for people that plan to use them to kill us. But every expat experience is unique, and I enjoy seeing the extreme ones on screen and saving the ones with a happy ending for reality.