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The new Netflix documentary short “What Would Sophia Loren Do?” is not what it seems. And that’s why it has played in the back of my mind for days after viewing it.
The documentary follows Nancy “Vincenza” Kulik, an Italian-American grandmother who has long been obsessed with Sophia Loren. Kulik discusses how she grew up watching Italian movies with her Italy-born parents and how she related to Loren in body and behavior.
But how did Kulik go from simply enjoying Sophia Loren’s acting to using her life as a template for her own?
WWSLD starts sweetly, with Kulik telling an anecdote about how her mantra began. Her children suggests she eat whole wheat pasta. “And that did it,” says Kulik. “I said, ‘You know, I’m listening to everything you’re saying. I respect all of it.” But I ask myself, ‘What would Sophia Loren do?'”
The film then cuts to Sophia Loren, who wonders “why me?”
Film producer Regina K. Scully, the daughter of Nancy Kulik, worked with director Ross Kauffman to bring this touching documentary short to the screen. It is spliced with scenes from Sophia Loren’s films and personal life as well as interviews with the legendary Italian actress.
What’s interesting about WWSLD is how it uses such a delightful premise and occasional humorous moments to delve into difficult subjects. We follow Kulik’s life, its pleasures and heartbreaks, and see how it nearly mirrors episodes from Loren’s films and family life. What would Sophia Loren do in my situation? What did she do in her own?
Perhaps this is a spoiler, but we learn later in the film that Scully knew Loren’s son Edoardo Ponti — who recently directed his mother in another Netflix film “The Life Ahead” — and was able to work with him to secure interviews with Loren and a meet-up with Kulik. It is a satisfying payoff to a film that wanders to some unexpected corners.
Netflix lists “What Would Sophia Loren Do?” under the category “Feel Good.” But, I don’t think that’s quite it. This documentary simply makes you feel. And that’s why I plan to queue it up and watch again, just like Kulik did with her favorite Loren movies.