THE SCORE. (compilation-3 cd set).

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Anyone familiar with MINISTRY OF SOUND, will quite rightly associate the name with dance music, and they would of course be correct to do so as M.O.S. have released numerous albums all of which contain specialist and classic floor fillers from clubland, mixed and produced by the top DJ, s of the day. Recently however the Ministry have deviated somewhat and added to their growing catalogue a handful of compilations that are slightly out of the normal area of music that they are known for. One of their recent releases is THE SCORE, which is a 3, compact disc set, that arguably contains some of the greatest or well-known themes from the movies. The line up of titles is impressive as is the list of composers that are included, granted not these selections are original recordings, some being cover versions or re-recordings, but they are performed by some of the leading orchestras from all over the world who are in turn directed by many respected conductors. There is really nothing new here for collectors, but saying this it is just so great to have all these wonderful themes on one compilation and evokes memories for me personally of the days when the film music compilation was alive and well and living in a record shop near you. The selections are varied and are a mixture of old and new, such as Nino Rota’s haunting theme for THE GODFATHER, John Williams foreboding JAWS theme, John Barry’s slice of romanticism in the form of OUT OF AFRICA, Hans Zimmer’s proud THIS LAND from THE LION KING, James Horner’s BRAVEHEART and TITANIC, Danny Elfman’s dark and impishly delicious BATMAN theme, the list is literally endless, well nearly. But alongside the classics there are also selections from more contemporary movies and the odd TV theme, such as. LION, GRAVITY, GAME OF THRONES, INCEPTION and BLACK SWAN. Alan Silvestri, Vangelis, Craig Armstrong, Alexandre Desplat, Ennio Morricone, Howard Shore, Clint Mansell (no relation), Brian Eno, Maurice Jarre, Max Steiner, Thomas Newman they are all represented here along with others.

 

CD 1, opens in grandiose style with John Williams who is conducting the London Symphony orchestra, in a thrilling and stirring performance of the main titles from, STAR WARS. What better way to open a compilation of music from the movies, this inspiring and iconic theme is followed by another piece of music that is set firmly into film and film music history, THE JAMES BOND THEME, from the first 007, thriller DR. NO, composed by Monty Norman and arranged and conducted here by probably one of the greatest film music composers of all time, John Barry. The theme which has been utilised in every official James Bond movie since DR.NO is given a jazzy and dramatic feel by Barry, who went onto compose the music for at least another 10 Bond movies, providing the franchise with some of the most recognisable and successful soundtracks, which included numerous hit songs and instantly recognisable themes.

 

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RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is next in the running order, with the L.S.O. once again stepping up to the mark and giving their all under the baton of composer John Williams. This rousing march from the Spielberg directed movie is followed by THE GODFATHER THEME, which was an international hit both as an instrumental, and as a vocal rendition, SPEAK SOFTLY LOVE, was recorded by over 100 artists globally, and if my memory serves me correctly these included, Vince Hill and Andy Williams. For track 5, we return to the music of John Williams, and another collaboration with gifted movie maker Steven Spielberg, JURRASIC PARK, boasted a proud and highly dramatic soundtrack, but was also infused with just the right amount of emotion by Williams, who also scored its sequel, with his themes being utilised in further outings to the park which were scored by other composers, such as Don Davis and Michael Giacchino.

 

Tracks 6 and 7, will be a delight for fans of Hans Zimmer, with his music for THE LION KING and GLADIATOR, being represented. Now I am not really a fan of Zimmer when it comes to his more recent efforts, but THIS LAND from THE LION KING is stirring to say the least, complete with choir and driving percussive elements that are further embellished and bolstered by brass and strings. Also, we are treated to his theme from Ridley Scott’s, GLADIATOR, in which Zimmer collaborates with Lisa Gerrard, for NOW WE ARE FREE. The compilation continues with the music of James Horner who sadly passed away far too early, Horner is a genius and has created so many emotive and poignant themes for movies such as, CASPER, GLORY, COCOON, WILLOW, KRULL, FIELD OF DREAMS and BRAVEHEART which is represented on this compilation, track number 7, is the beautiful but bitter sweet end title music from the movie, that includes an arrangement of the composers FOR THE LOVE OF A PRINCESS, also from the movie. This is followed by more John Williams with HARRY POTTER and THE PHILOSOPHERS STONE and SUPERMAN. Hans Zimmer again with the rousing DRINK UP ME HEARTIES, YO HO HO, from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and his brooding but mesmerising INCEPTION theme. Howard Shore makes an entrance with THE FELLOWSHIP from LORD OF THE RINGS and Clint Mansell is represented by his LUX AETERNA from REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, Alan Silvestri steadfast fans will delight when they hear The City of Prague Philharmonic launch into his vibrantly excellent BACK TO THE FUTURE theme, as will Jerry Goldsmith devotes when they get to hear LIFES A DREAM from STAR TREK V, THE FINAL FRONTIER again performed by The C.O.P.P.O. Brian Eno brings disc one to a close with AN ENDING which is taken from the soundtrack to TRAFFIC. Yes, that’s right disc one, and there’s more as they say, in fact two more discs that are rammed with so many great pieces of film music it is hard to take in. This compilation is certainly a case of both quantity and quality. So are you ready, here we go,

 

 

Disc 2, E.T. was a smash hit at the cinema box office and there was not a dry eye in the house at the end of the movie, this was a case of images and music together perfectly, Spielberg’s imagination being transferred to the big screen, with an adventure on earth for an alien that touched the hearts of millions, the film told the story of an extra terrestrial who had been left on earth by mistake and befriended by a young boy Elliot, and all the time there was the music of John Williams, punctuating, and underlining every beautiful, emotive and comic moment. The track included here is ADVENTURE ON EARTH which runs almost continually for the last 20 mins of the movie, underpinning the exciting escape of E.T. on BMX bikes and his final reunion with his spaceship and the tearful and heart-breaking final departure of the alien. With the composers dramatic and thundering fanfares underlined by percussion bring the movie to it end. For track number two, we have the theme from TITANIC, James Horner admitted that the director of the movie hated the song and he was told not to use it, but the composer persisted, and we all know what happened, representing the award-winning score we have ROSE, which is performed by a wordless soprano, supported by Celtic sounding pipes, strings and subtle use of percussion, in this rendition of the familiar MY HEART WILL GO ON. ROMEO AND JULIET, comes next, this is Craig Armstrong’s beautifully crafted piece entitled THE BALCONY SCENE, for the Baz Lurman movie, which featured Leonardo di Caprio. Poignant piano, and fragile sounding strings melt the listeners heart as the combine, intertwine and compliment each other performing the composers richly romantic but delicate theme. Thomas Newman, is the Son of one of the film music worlds most respected figures. Alfred Newman, scored numerous movies and acted as head of music for film studios in the Golden days of Hollywood. Alfred’s music is part of Hollywood history as he created themes and scores for movies such as HOW THE WEST WAS WON, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, AIRPORT,THE ROBE, THE SONG OF BERNADETTE and so many more, the Oscar winning composer/conductor influenced the way in which movies were scored, and his blueprints for want of a better word are still in use to a degree today, AMERICAN BEAUTY was a movie that caused quite a stir, and created a lot of revenue at the box office, Thomas Newman’s score is somewhat low key and unassuming, but the theme, is one that is instantly recognisable, from the first few introductory notes. THE PLASTIC BAG THEME, has also been sampled and re-used many times in dance tracks and mimicked by other composers within other movies. Thomas Newman of course is the current composer for the James Bond franchise, with his score for SKYFALL, receiving an Oscar nomination in 2013.

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His Brother David is also a respected film music composer and his cousin Randy Newman is the popular composer/songwriter/performer, who was responsible for fashioning the soundtrack to TOY STORY. Disc two continues, with more wonderful film music as we experience the LOVE THEME from the original BLADE RUNNER composed and performed by Vangelis. For track number, 6, we go back to the silver age of film music, with composer Alex Norths, LOVE THEME from SPARTACUS, on listening to the composition one would not think it was from a movie about Gladiators, slaves and Romans, as it sounds a little too contemporary, surprisingly it worked within the movie, the remainder of North’s score being more dramatic and in tune with what was taking place on screen. More classic movie music follows this time from the Humphrey Bogart thriller, CASABLANCA, the movie was scored by Max Steiner in 1942, Steiner, became known as the Father of film music and was credited for changing the way in which movies were scored when he wrote the soundtrack to KING KONG back in 1933. For this cue we hear AS TIME GOES BY, which although was featured in the movie CASABLANCA, was not actually composed by Steiner, he did however utilise sections of the melody and incorporate it into his main score. The song was written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931, and became popular when it was sung by the character Sam (Dooley Wilson) in that famous bar scene in CASABLANCA. Disc two continues and includes, THE MISSION, (Gabriel’s oboe) OUT OF AFRICA (Theme), DANCES WTH WOLVES (Theme), DR. ZHIVAGO (Lara’s Theme), BLACK SWAN, THE PIANIST, GONE WITH THE WIND, AVATAR, TRUE ROMANCE and the haunting LION THEME from the film LION. So, as I have already stated, this is a compilation that contains a varied content, and one would hope that THE MINISTRY OF SOUND would produce a sequel, THE SCORE 2, very soon. One criticism, and no it’s not anything to do with the music on the set, it’s the lack of notes, the absence of info within the compact disc liner, there is a track listing, but that’s it. I personally think that film music compilations do need notes, in fact all soundtrack releases need notes, to tell the people about the composers the films and even the directors involved. But, hey that’s something that is down to the individual record label. Disc three opens with the rousing theme for one of TV, S most popular shows, GAME OF THRONES, music by Ramin Djawadi, who’s rapid rise to the top of his game has been incredible and well deserved. The familiar strains of the opening theme for the series begin the final CD in the compilation, Djawadi’s driving theme not only being dramatic but also having a degree of melodious attributes that hook the listener immediately.

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Track two, is MOBY.S contribution to HEAT, a track entitled, GOD MOVING OVER THE FACE OF WATER, it is a pleasant enough cue, but personally I found it a little repetitive and tedious, the track never really moving on or developing melodically, the same chords being repeated over and over, with varying degrees of percussive crescendos here and there, fully electronic and somewhat boring. Oliver Stones, Vietnam war movie PLATOON, is next, or at least the music that Stone decided to use in the end, which was Barbers, Adagio for strings, this must be one of the most played pieces of classical music. The score for PLATOON was originally composed by French Maestro, Georges Delerue, but was not used, for me the Delerue score is a work of art, it is a score that is filled with fragility, and would I think been perfect for the movie. However, Stone the director dis-agreed, I am not sure, but I think that the Adagio for strings was used as a temp track by the director, and because he had heard it so much and cut his movie to it, he fell in love with it and decided that it was best for the movie. All I can say is yes, it is a moving and powerful piece of music, but if you do get a chance to hear the Delerue, I urge you to take time to do so. This performance of the Adagio, is a flawless one by The City of Prague Philharmonic. We return to Thomas Newman for the next selection, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, has in recent years become something of a cult movie, Newman’s music is powerful but at the same time melodious and haunting. SCHINDLERS LIST, by John Williams, is presented next, performed by the CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC, this is a wonderfully touching rendition of the MAIN THEME from the movie, which was originally performed by Itzak Perlman.

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Another John Williams composition is next, and from another film by director Spielberg, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. HYMN TO THE FALLEN is a piece that always gets to the soul of any listener, the martial timpani and brass being augmented and enhanced by the composers use of strings and choir that when combined create a highly emotionally charged piece. The remainder of disc three contains a variation of highly polished and attractive sounding themes, THE LIFE OF PI, FORREST GUMP, THE IMITATION GAME, APPOLLO 13, INDEPENDENCE DAY and JAWS to name a mere handful. THE SCORE is a compilation that I would recommend highly, it is a great listen from start to finish, and will keep you entertained, with its varied content and alluring musical moments from the Silver screen. Enjoy.

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STAR WARS. THE LAST JEDI.

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Ok, I do not profess to be an expert on STAR WARS, or even the STAR WARS soundtracks, but I do know what I like. As with every STAR WARS soundtrack, the score for THE LAST JEDI, opens with the now iconic theme that was penned by composer John Williams way back in the day, when we lived in, A FAR NICER AND SIMPLIER WORLD THAN WE DO NOWADAYS. The familiar brass flourishes and Erich Wolfgang Korngold inspired fanfares that in my opinion returned the world of film music back to where it should have been and reinstated the symphonic score to cinema, still send a chill of excitement and anticipation up one’s spine and make the hairs on the back of the neck bristle anticipation and expectation at the thought of what the composer might have in store for us. As with all scores for the STAR WARS saga, the opening theme soon segues seamlessly into the opening cue of the score, in this case the MAIN TITLES run for 1 min and 36 secs, then rumbling and booming percussion introduce the fast paced and driving track entitled ESCAPE, which oozes everything that is STAR WARS musically and is filled with the finesse, genius and perfection that we have come to expect from John Williams. In fact, this is a great opening that is filled with tense and edgy brass stabs and underlying dark strings that combine with the percussive elements of the piece to create a composition that verges on the Wagnerian and the operatic because of its powerfully enigmatic and commanding presence, the composer weaving the central theme into the cue and every so often lifting the darkness and foreboding atmosphere with mini fanfares and brass laden hope filled stabs. The brass and percussion work overtime for this opener and drive the piece forward with strings lacing and enveloping the already emotive and inspiring composition. For any soundtrack collector this will indeed be a feast of the artistry of John William’s at his dramatic and action packed best. This is a cue that is STAR WARS through and through, it contains, emotion, drama and a real romantic undercurrent that relays to the listener the ethos of the STAR WARS scores and evokes memories and thoughts of past triumphs of the previous movies and their soundtracks. There is a richness here, but also a degree of darkness and a romantic sense of adventure which to be honest only William’s can purvey via his heartfelt strings and flyaway woods, it is enchanting, beguiling and gets right to one’s core.

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As with his music for THE FORCE AWAKENS we hear the familiar themes and nuances that we expect, but are also treated to new and fresh material, with the familiar being given a new lease of life as the composer arranges and orchestrates them in varying ways at times combining elements of the original with the new, as in the SUPREMACY, which is a variation on DARTH VADERS theme.

 

With the near mournful and solitary horn leit-motif for Luke Skywalker, which is instantly recognisable that raises its head every so often throughout the work beginning as a poignant and fragile sounding piece but becoming a full-blown arrangement with the poignancy heightened and transformed into a more substantial and lush piece by surging and proud sounding strings that are embellished by brass, giving it a mesmeric quality that tugs at the heartstrings and washes over the listener in waves of emotion. The composer utilises this and it has a more pronounced impact in the cue, OLD FRIENDS, which in the first instant is low and ominous, but swiftly develops into a combination of both Luke and Leia’s themes. I cannot really say a lot more about the score, it is after all a STAR WARS soundtrack, and its John Williams, so what more could you possibly want, I will say however, that in my very humble opinion, THE LAST JEDI, does stand out more than its predecessor, there seems to be more for us to get our teeth into here, the last track, FINALE, is a delight, it is after all an overture of sorts, and contains all of the major themes from the score, thus combining old with new for a glorious 8 minutes or so. For a series of movies that has endured for so many years, it is surprising that the musical side of things has not become a little cliched or stale, but on listening to THE LAST JEDI, there is no chance of that happening, William’s unearths old and familiar themes and introduces new and vibrantly fresh pieces that will delight, thrill and inspire. Love the score, all 1 hour and 17 minutes of it. Buy this NOW….

 

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ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.

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Back in 2001 I came across this soundtrack, but kind of held back a little on getting it because I had not heard of the composers or performers involved on the score. But, I eventually went and got the compact disc, and was blown away by the great artistry and wonderful levels of performance that were held within the soundtrack. The film was not a great success, but it was also not a complete flop and many people still do speak of it now. Its appeal is I think the simplicity and the intimacy of the music. Performed on mainly guitar, with trumpet, cello, bass and percussion that are supported by a small but strong sounding string section and a handful of percussion and brass. I do remember reviewing the score for another web site or maybe it was a magazine, and it seemed to have got lost with many other articles from those days. So on re visiting the score I was moved to once again wax lyrical about its many attributes. The opening track, COWBOYS DREAM, is what it says in a musical form, a proud western flavoured theme, for solo guitar, strings and strummed guitar which acts as a background and an underlying foundation for the cue, it is in effect the main title of sorts, and acts as an appetizer for much of what is to follow, the up-tempo piece establishes itself immediately, with a haunting hook and an imposing lyrical sound that is hard to not become involved with. The second cue, CANYON SONATA, is somewhat more down beat with a plaintive guitar solo, picking out a Hispanic flavoured composition, that would certainly not be out of place in numerous Italian made westerns. Track three, is the actual Title track, ALL THE PRETTY HORSE, this is a variation of the first cue, however strings are brought into the equation, and Mariachi sounding trumpets and percussive elements that are laced with horns and it is given a sharpness and melodic quality via the flawless guitar solo, which takes centre stage. I suppose the best way to describe the score for ALL THE PRETTY HORSES is to say it is flavoured and coloured with country sounds that themselves are given a more dramatic feel via the subtle but ever present orchestral support throughout. Steel guitar, electric bass and solo guitar performances dominate much of the soundtrack, but the instruments are used in both the conventional and more unconventional manner, the performers experimenting with way to achieve the effecting sounds. There are also substantial contributions from, accordion, mandolin and Viola, which either perform together or as solo contributions to create a work that is attractive and beautifully melodic  The soundtrack is the work of a trio of writers, Marty Stuart, Larry Paxton and Kristin Wilkinson, with the score being performed by various artists.

 

 

I promise you once you listen to this soundtrack, you will be left wanting more and more, and will return to it so many times, it is a work that haunts the listener with its subtle, dramatic and wistfully romantic musical nuances and themes and beguiles them with its earthy but at the same time emotive and delicate motifs.  All I can say is that the compact disc is deleted, but it is available on the likes of Spotify and I Tunes and there are a few copies of the recording available on a couple of internet selling sites, this is a must have soundtrack, filled with so many wonderful compositions that it is hard to think that they all hail from the same film. The soundtrack also contains two vocals, PORQUE and FAR AWAY, which are both pleasing songs and are a bonus to the already excellent release.   You got it yet????

THE QUEENS MESSENGER. (sleeve notes for the KRONOS RECORDS release)

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Released in 2001. QUEENS MESSENGER, stars, Gary Daniels as Captain Strong, who is a member of the SAS on loan as it were to the Secret Service, who put him to work as a messenger. Strong is a seasoned and highly thought of officer who has the trust of his government. He is a given a highly volatile assignment which involves the perilous task of delivering an important message to the British Consul in Kazakhstan. He must guard the message with his life, as it contains the details of a number of secret agreements that have been made by a handful of heads of state regarding the control of the country’s oil resources. Strong must keep his wits about as there are many who would like to relieve him of this important document. Ben Samm, is one such person, he is the leader of rebels who most certainly benefit from gaining control of the regions oil exploration right. Whilst travelling to Kazakhstan, Strong meets and teams up with American news reporter Alexi Jones played by Teresa Sherrer, who has heard rumours surrounding the Country’s oil resources and is investigating these, but also becomes curious about Captain Strong’s part in it all. Both the reporter and Strong are captured by the rebels, who have also kidnapped the British Ambassador, and are holding him hostage. Strong decides he must attempt to escape and lead his fellow prisoners to safety. Directed by Mark Roper, QUEENS MESSENGER, is an enjoyabl thriller, that contains more action than storyline, the movies central character becoming involved in an overabundance of chases, shoot outs, and fast paced hand to hand fighting, which take up approximately 90 percent of the films duration. The Bulgarian/Canadian and British co-production, was made on a low budget and sadly at certain points within the movie this does show, but saying this it still manages to entertain without the audience having to think to much about the plot. The musical score for QUEENS MESSENGER is the work of Italian Maestro, Stelvio Cipriani, who came to the notice of the cinema going public back in the 1960, s via his, inventive, haunting and infectious soundtracks to Italian produced westerns, such as A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN, THE BOUNTY KILLER and THEY CALL ME ALLELUJAH to name but three. His theme for A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN became a worldwide hit with artists such as LeRoy Holmes and Henry Mancini including arrangements of it on their albums. Cipriani also became known for his highly emotive and theme laden score to THE ANONYMOUS VENITIAN. The music for QUEENS MESSENGER is in the main action driven, with up-tempo themes and near martial sounding cues dominating the work. But the composer also manages to include a lush and romantic sounding side to the soundtrack, in the tracks, BACK TO LIFE and ALEXI’S THEME with strings that swell and rise and solo piano that is delicate and alluring, which adds a degree of fragility to the proceedings. Its sound not being a million miles away from the composer’s music for THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN.

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Cipriani does have a distinct and recognisable sound, but for QUEENS MESSENGER, the composer employed a more conventional approach, relying upon strong performances from, brass. percussion and strings, with Female solo voice making a subtle appearance from time to time, giving the score a touch of ethnic authenticity. He also bolsters and supports the conventional orchestra with a handful of electronic and synthetic additions which combine with the symphonic seamlessly. Thanks to Kronos records we can hear one of the composer’s lesser known works for the silver screen.

SALVATORE. (sleeve notes for the Kronos release)

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Composer Paolo Vivaldi has written the music for over 70 motion pictures and television projects, most of his works being for the small screen the composer writing for television mini-series or TV movies, such as ADRIANO OLIVETTI-LA FORZA DI UN SOGNO, VISO D; ANGELO, THE TEACHER and I CERCHI NELL’ACQUA. Born in Rome on January 20th, 1964, the composer has put his musical stamp upon drama’s, romantic tales, thrillers, and so many other genres. He has also written haunting and appealing musical soundtracks for documentaries including, THE SUN IS DARK and METAMORFOSI. It is somewhat difficult to comprehend why such a talented and versatile composer such as Vivaldi has not enjoyed more success as in being better known amongst the film music collecting fraternity. In 2006 the composer worked on SALVATORE-QUESTA E LA VITA, which was a movie produced by Disney. The film sadly did not receive many positive reviews and was ignored or overlooked by critics and audiences alike when it was released, which is surprising as the subject matter is something that Disney normally excels at. Vivaldi’s score for the picture is symphonic with a minimal amount of synthetic support and enhancement and is written predominantly for strings, piano and woods, these elements acting as a foundation on which he builds the remainder of the thematic material. The composer underlining and enhancing the movies, dramatic, comedic and at times heartrending moments superbly. Vivaldi, utilizes solo piano within the soundtrack to purvey delicate and fragile atmospheres, creating emotive and haunting musical nuances and interludes. The composer also employs a beguiling Female wordless voice at certain stages of the score which is underlined by cello and further embellished by subtle piano, a combination that is not only affecting but highly effective. The score is not only melodic and alluring, but also contains a richness and has a luxurious musical persona, Vivaldi, shaping, adapting and tailoring his already emotive and melancholy sounding music to suit every scenario that we encounter within the picture. There is also a more rustic side to the work, which comes in the form traditional sounding Sicilian flavoured pieces, which personally evoked memories of Luis Baclov’s soundtrack for IL POSTINO. But, it is the delicate and more melodic thematic material that attracts one to the score, and within the movie the composer does manage to get the correct balance and enhance rather than overpower with his subtle nuances and lingering tone poems, plus creating a rich and attractive work. The score has been issued digitally, but this is the first time it has received a compact disc release.

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After the sudden death of both his Mother and Father, a young boy Salvatore, (Allesandro Mallia), is gripped by anger over his catastrophic loss, but his anger and frustration turns to determination as he decides that he must now become the man of the family carry on the family business stepping into his Fathers shoes. He does this so that he can support both his younger Sister and elderly Grandmother. The 12-year-old continues running the fishing boat that his Father worked and becomes a farmer, cultivating a crop of tomatoes. But because of his determination to carry on working he neglects his education and decides that he will leave school. Social services are made aware of the situation by the education department and become involved, which could mean that Salvatore may be separated from his family and placed into care at an orphanage. However, a young Teacher (Enrico lo Verso) discovers what Salvatore is trying to do, and sets out to help the youngster with his school work, going to Salvatore’s home every day after he has finished teaching to tutor him one to one, he also helps the boy fishing and working in the greenhouse where Salvatore has kept the family business going. Although this is a film that has a predictable plot, and is somewhat sugary in areas, it is still a movie that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike, and is a tale of determination in the face of adversity, friendship and family.

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