An elderly Italian peasant, Uncle Nino (Pierrino Mascarino) comes to America for the first time to spend some time with his nephew, Robert Micelli (Joan of Arcadia’s Joe Mantegna), and his family. With his violin, a suitcase full of homemade wine, and a photo of his hero, Abraham Lincoln, in tow, Nino expects to be embraced by the country of his dreams. What he discovers instead is a place of take-out food, manicured lawns, teen smoking, processed vegetables, and a barely communicative family---each disconnected from the others, caught up in lives of multi-tasking.
While Robert works round-the-clock to ensure a much-deserved promotion, Marie (Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Anne Archer) fills her time working, organizing the household, and growing increasingly lonelier. Fourteen-year-old Bobby (Trevor Morgan) devotes more time to his garage band and petty acts of neighbourhood vandalism than his schoolwork, and twelve-year-old Gina (Gina Mantegna, making her film debut) spends most of her time at her friend’s house.
Though barely conversant in English, Uncle Nino slowly begins to connect with Gina through her love of dogs and Bobby through his passion for music. It isn’t until Uncle Nino and the kids tear up the entire front yard and plant an elaborate garden, however, that Robert confronts the uncle he hasn’t seen in thirty years. Finally learning the true reason for his uncle’s visit, Robert reflects on his life and reconsiders the things that are truly important to him.
A work of deep sentiment that avoids sentimentality, Uncle Nino is a film about the lost art of living. A fable-like story grounded in realism, Uncle Nino is a feel-good, Capra-esque tale, whose magical lead character teaches others how to slow down and enjoy life’s simple pleasures: good food and drink, music, and most important, La Famiglia!