Loosely based on the real life and heartbreaking story of Elisa Girotto, who left seventeen presents for her unborn child before she died from cancer, 18 Presents is an Italian drama that centers on that premise with an additional twist.
Anna (Benedetta Porcaroli) grows up without knowing her mother, but on each birthday, she receives a gift from her. However, Anna becomes resentful of the gifts, and her birthday as it was the day her mom died. In retaliation, Anna runs away. On the run, Anna gets hit by a car and somehow, she’s sent back to the past where she meets her mother months before she died. During which, the two connect and spend time together that they had lost.
While the movie attempts to pull at the audience’s heartstrings, it instead pulls on nerves as our main character, Anna, acts irresponsibly. To me, she’s not much of a likable character. I get why she feels resentment towards her mother, but she comes off as arrogant at times. She does grow up in the end, but it was still hard to connect with her. It also doesn’t help that she looks like Bella from Twilight, and I couldn’t stop thinking of it. Maybe that’s another subtle reason why I didn’t like her.
The film also suffers from pacing issues. Some scenes end too quickly before we can properly digest them. Take for instance when the mother, Elisa (Vittoria Puccini), learns that she has cancer. We don’t have to fully take in that revelation as, minutes later, we’re treated to a montage of Anna growing up, and the movie then focuses on her instead.
While we do go back in time and learn more about Elisa and how the cancer affects her, it still doesn’t excuse the pacing problems that the film has. I think if the movie focused more on Elisa and leaving out Anna until the end, it would be a stronger film. It’s also a weird choice that there’s time travel. It’s never properly explained, and it doesn’t make the film as grounded as it probably should.
The film is essentially Back to the Future with more drama, but the drama falls flat and isn’t as impactful as it should. It has a sentimental concept, but the execution of it isn’t handled well when the characters aren’t that engaging, and the pacing is all over the place. Not too mention it gets boring at times, and you just want it to end. Really, the film could’ve been twenty or thirty minutes shorter.
Overall, 18 Presents feels more like a soap opera than a drama, and I feel bad for saying that since the concept is based off a tragic story (even though it’s loosely). I’m sure other people will find this film emotional for them, but as for me, it’s bland and forgettable.
Originally written by Lauren Massuda on May 15, 2020