Umberto Melchiorri (Diego Abatantuono) owns a spiffy menswear shop right next door to the more modest-looking haberdashery of Leone Simeoni (Sergio Castellitto). The businessmen are constantly at each other's throats, yet their families remain entwined in meaningful ways. Umberto's young son Pietruccio (Walter Dragonetti)--who narrates--is best pals with Leone's boy Lele (Simone Ascani). Paolo Melchiorri (Elio Germano) and Susanna Simeoni (Gioia Spaziani) are teenagers in love. Then, political tensions that begin to pit neighbor against neighbor actually create peace between the two entrepreneurs. The zeitgeist also sharpens Pietruccio's perceptions about a pro-Mussolini maternal uncle (Augusto Fornari) and a paternal uncle (the lip-synching Gerard Depardieu) who is horrified when Italy enacts racial laws to persecute its Jewish citizens. In that the Simeonis are of that persuasion, their country becomes increasingly hazardous for them.
Lovingly photographed by Franco di Giacomo, the movie mixes humor with pathos in a refreshing child's-eye-view of a dark time in history. Starring Diego Abatanuono, Sergio Castellitto, Gerard Depardieu, Walter Dragonetti, Simone Ascani, Augusto Fornari, Jean-Claude Brialy and Anita Zagaria. Directed by Ettore Scola. Written by Silvia Scola, Giacomo Scarpelli and Furio Scarpelli. Produced by Franco Committeri. No distributor set. Historical drama. Italian-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 110 min.