⚠️ Spoilers ahead! Read the book, book review, and/or watch the limited series on Netflix.
A wife must come to terms with losing her husband and uniting her family abroad as they grieve in the Netflix series From Scratch. Based on the best-selling memoir by actress Tembi Locke, the series’ last episode summarizes the grief that is expressed throughout the book.
In the last episode, Amy, played by Zoë Saldaña, brought her husband Lino, played by Eugenio Mastrandrea, home to palliative care as his rare soft-tissue cancer worsened with no cure in sight. After a few days of bittersweet heartache, Lino dies. When Amy meets with palliative care counselor in “Between the Fire and the Pan” episode, she’s told to bring her daughter, Idalia, played by Isla Colbert, to Lino after he passes. She does that in the beginning of this episode to let her daughter grieve her father.
The grieving process is palpable. Amy later collapses as her mother Lynn, played by Kellita Smith, and her sister Zora, played by Danielle Deadwyler, bathe her in the bathtub as she uncontrollably cries. We don’t hear the grief as instrumental music drowns them out. Amy then stays in bed while her family takes over her house. Zora tells Amy that she’s afraid of her slipping away. Amy breaks down that she can’t fly to Sicily to bring Lino’s ashes home. She doesn’t have the energy; she already gave her all.
FINDING HOME IN SICILY
Amy finds herself driving on the rollercoaster roads of Sicily with Idalia in the backseat, along with Lino’s ashes. They follow the directions to Lino’s family’s home, where they are greeted by the entire town led by Lino’s mother Filomena, played by Lucia Sardo. Amy rises out of the car and presents Lino’s ashes to his mother. Filomena gets teary as she carries the urn high in a solemn parade through the narrow alleys to her house.
The priest comes to the house for the blessing while Filomena breaks down. Idalia gets agitated about the overwhelming emotion in the room. Amy carries her to their guest room where she explains they are leaving Lino in Sicily. Idalia thought her father would come back with them to Los Angeles. After the blessing, Filomena tells Idalia she can see her father anytime in her imagination. All in black, the family later goes on another trek to bury Lino as the townspeople bow in respect.
The next day, Filomena makes Amy breakfast, consoling her about the everlasting heartbreak of losing a husband. Filomena’s husband and Lino’s father Giacomo, played by Paride Benassai, dies in the episode “Heirlooms,” a year after visiting the family in LA in the “Bread and Brine” episode. Neither of Lino’s parents attend the wedding for Amy and Lino that takes place in Italy, a sore spot in the “A Villa. A Broom. A Cake.” episode that continues to emerge throughout the series. This is not the first time they have spoken, but it’s the first time Amy has been in the family household and is being treated with care by her semi-estranged mother-in-law.
Amy goes to a wine bar for a moment of peace away from her family. She’s the only woman there. The older Sicilian men watch her in suspicion. Not only is she American, but she is Black, and they have probably never seen someone who looks like her up close. The town’s mayor shares his condolences with Amy. She walks out of the bar and notices the women hanging outside on their patios watch her walk back to Filomena’s house. In Italian, they comment on her darker complexion. Amy thinks it’s comical that they don’t realize she understands Italian as she heads home. For another break, she runs up the hills around the town and sneaks a peek of the Mediterranean Sea as the backdrop to rolling green hills. That’s her moment of peace.
“Grief in Sicily is not an individual experience but a communal one where people are called upon to witness and support one another,” Tembi writes in the book where she recounts her life with her late husband Saro, who died from cancer. “The way certain African cultures use drumming as an active means of dealing with their grief—the rhythm is played continuously for days, day and night, over and over, as a constant reminder to the community of its loss—in Sicily the story of the deceased is told over and over.”
In the show, the mourning tour continues as Filomena brings Amy and Idalia to other townspeople’s homes to sit and relive memories of Lino. At one home, Idalia gets sick eating too much candy. The nosy women notice Idalia gripping her tummy once they’re outside and convince Filomena to take this opportunity to see the doctor’s house. Nobody has really seen the so-called palace-like interior. The women want to know what’s inside the massive house. Amy can’t believe she’s being wrapped up in town gossip.
Filomena takes Idalia’s hand as they head to the doctor’s mysterious home. He invites them inside to sit with them in the their mourning. They notice a photo of the doctor with Lino framed on a side table. The two are standing outside the restaurant in Florence where Amy and Lino fell in love in the debut episode “First Tastes.” The doctor explains he had visited Florence and met with Lino years ago. He now prays often for Lino. The unexpected visit becomes the most impactful. Once they leave, the women swarm around the family to hear what they saw. Idalia tells them that she saw several chandeliers inside. This satisfies the town gossipers.
That night, Amy dreams of Lino. She finds him in the kitchen in Sicily cooking her a meal. They embrace. Then she wakes up. She can see him whenever she wants. In the morning, she learns Filomena wants her to meet with the family lawyer. Filomena doesn’t give Amy details until Amy finds herself beside her sister-in-law being asked by the lawyer to sign papers. It’s a deed to the land. Now that Lino as the oldest son is gone, Amy inherits the farmland. She refuses to sign the paperwork.
While resting back at the house, Amy is summoned. A dispute over a car accident with the town’s mayor has broken out with a driver who speaks English. The driver tells Amy that the mayor hit his car. Amy explains to the driver that the man in the car is the mayor, and with the townspeople crowding the area, the mayor will win the argument. The driver takes the loss and speeds away. The townspeople cheer for Amy. She’s one of their own.
Amy goes to church with Filomena while it’s empty. Filomena is praying to Saint Anne or Sant’Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary, the grandmother of Jesus Christ. She says she prayed to this saint when Amy and Lino married, when Lino died. She wants Amy to make Sicily her home. That’s why she sent her to the lawyer’s office to inherit the land. Later, Amy brings Idalia to the spot she had found while running where the hills and the sea create a picturesque vision of peace. Amy tells Idalia that this is where Lino still feels alive because it’s their home.
Sant’Anna’s Day falls on Amy’s birthday. Sant’Anna is the patron saint of travelers and widows. It’s the opportune time to celebrate Lino.
“These women pray to her in times of difficulty and times of celebration,” Tembi writes in the book. “I had also learned that she was the patron saint of widows and travelers. I was born on her day, July 26. I was married on her day. For the people of Aliminusa, that meant she was my personal saint. ‘You drew a good card,’ Nonna told me.” Her family comes to Sicily to join in the Sant’Anna Day procession that starts with a prayer then ends with the band playing in celebration. She describes the moment as the “magic hour,” a phrase in cinematography describing “the moment when the diffused rays of the sun make everything more beautiful.”
Magic hour happens onscreen for Amy’s family, who flies from LA and Texas, to join Amy, Idalia, and Lino’s family as they celebrate life. The joyous and heart-wrenching event ends the series.
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