'18 Presents' Review: A time-altering tale of an estranged mother and her daughter that tugs at heartstrings
'18 Regali'aka '18 Presents' is a story about a mother's unconditional love for her daughter and the daughter's earnest yearning for her dead mother — brought together under mysterious circumstances
Spoilers for Netflix's '18 Regali' aka '18 Presents'
Every year on her birthday, Anna (Benedetta Porcaroli) receives a special birthday present from her mother Elisa (Vittoria Puccini). One year it is a doll, another year it is a massive dollhouse, the year after that are diving classes. But when she receives a piano, she can't take it anymore.
She lashes out at her father Alessio (Edoardo Leo) at her party and walks out. Later, she would ask her father if her mother is dead and Alessio would accompany her to the graveyard the next day.
But Anna is angry at her dead mother — why her, why Elisa, why can't she be with her mother? And spends the next several years in that very state of anger and frustration - refusing to accept any further presents from the woman who left her when she was born.
What Anna doesn't want to understand is that she is not the only one hurting — Alessio is hurting too. But there is hardly anything he can do to make any of this better. Does he not fulfill his wife's dying wish? Does he keep her last sentiments from Anna?
At Elisa's end, we are shown her making the discovery that she has a terminal tumor — breast cancer. It has reached a stage where it can only be delayed and not cured. On her way back home, she stops outside a tunnel to simply cry it out.
On the day of her 18th birthday, to say that Anna is upset is not doing justice to her feelings. She is angry, sad and heartbroken, only looking for one way to lash out.
And so she leaves her birthday party and sets out on the road, drinking alcohol straight from the bottle and asking for lifts. A man finally stops and together they go to a bar, obviously with the intention of sleeping with her.
There, he confirms her age. But a drunk Anna tells him how it is her birthday that day, but it is also a day of mourning too since her mother passed away several years ago on the very same day.
The man, named Walter, reveals that he actually knows Elisa and Alessio, and in fact even her (having attended a few of her birthday parties when she was young). Seeing her in that disturbed state, he tries calling her father, but Anna flicks his car keys and flees the bar.
She is hit by a car. It begins to pour and she is awakened by Elisa. Anna is highly confused — what is happening, how is her mother here? Elisa wants to take her to the hospital but ends up taking her home.
Anna is still confused and cannot fathom the situation. When Alessio returns home, she is worried that he will recognize her. But when he doesn't, she lies to them that she is not from here. The couple agrees to let her stay the night and the next day, Elisa would take her to the hospital.
And so begins the unusual journey that mother and daughter embark on. While Anna can't understand the logistics of the situation, she decides to make the most of the circumstances to try and get to know her mother.
Together, they simply live one day after the other as it comes — getting locked out of their home one night and eating dinner, talking about everyday things. Then because they don't have the keys, they get a room in a hotel where they spend some time swimming in the pool.
By now, Elisa had already been working on getting her unborn daughter presents till her 18th birthday. She asks Anna if getting her a swimming lesson would be a good idea. Anna who is still mad about the gifts refuses the idea altogether but Elisa is eager to leave her daughter with something.
The movie is really held together by Elisa, whose optimism is abundant. Her husband might be living in denial desperately trying to get top doctor's appointments for her treatment, but Elisa knows her fate and focuses all her energy on making a comprehensive list of the presents.
For the most part of its two-hour running time, '18 Presents' has a charming energy. Anna and Elisa, unknown to the latter, spend time with each other. Their banter, discussions and even arguments, are akin to those of mothers and daughters. Soon, even Elisa begins to look after Anna like a mother would overcome by her instincts.
However, it gets very real very soon towards the end when Elisa's end nears. By now, both Anna and Alessio begin to get anxious of what is to come.
Anna begins the movie nursing a frustration deep in her belly — anger towards her mother and all the 17 presents she had lined for her. But when the movie ends, she sees her own self in a different light — the way that Elisa saw her.
Anna might not have gotten the time to bid her farewell to Elisa, but she does receive her mother's final words - in a letter she wrote just before the delivery.
The Italian movie tells the story about a mother and daughter's bond that is caused by mysterious circumstances. How Anna goes back into the past and gets the chance to spend her mother's last few months with her is never explained. It is hardly surprising though because that is not the purpose of the movie at all.
'18 Presents' is a story about a mother's unconditional love for her daughter and that daughter's earnest yearning for her dead mother — which reunites them gifting them the life that they dreamed of, a life that would have been.
'18 Presents' is currently streaming on Netflix.