The Son's Room
, which picked up the 2001 Palme d'Or at Cannes, marks a departure for writer-director Nanni Moretti. The films that made his name outside Italy, Dear Diary
, were both highly personal and politicised semi-documentaries, and a strong political sense underlies the half-dozen or so features he made before them. By contrast, The Son's Room
is a subtle, intense study of a family cracking apart under the impact of grief, with no overt political element. For all that, it's the most moving film that Moretti's yet made. "It captured me" he says "more than any other [story] I'd worked on previously. It's a film in which the director shares his emotions with the audience, without imposing his own feelings."
As usual, the director plays his own lead character. Here he's Giovanni, a successful psychiatrist in a provincial Italian city (Ancona on the Adriatic coast). He has a beautiful wife, happy in her own career, and two bright, good-looking teenage children, a son and a daughter. Then, out of nowhere, tragedy strikes and in its aftermath, the fissures begin to show in the idyllic façade. Giovanni in particular reveals the insecurities and neuroses lurking behind his tolerant, easy-going demeanour. Moretti homes in on his characters with clear-eyed compassion, never milking the tragedy for facile sentiment but sparing us nothing of the gut-wrenching grief they feel. Nor does he succumb to the temptation of a feel-good happy ending: we are left with a hint of hope for the future, but no more. This is intelligent, mature filmmaking that respects its audience.
On the DVD: The Son's Room comes to disc with just the trailer--and the flabby US trailer at that. A commentary from Moretti would have been more than welcome. Still, the transfer, in the original 1.66:1 ratio, is impeccable, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound to match. --Philip Kemp
Nanni Moretti ('Dear Diary') writes, directs and stars in this story of family grief and bereavement. Psychiatrist Giovanni (Moretti) lives happily with his family in a small Italian coastal town. One Sunday he is due to spend time with his son Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice), when he receives an anguished call from Oscar, one of his patients, and feels he must go and see him instead; later that afternoon Andrea dies in a diving accident. Over the following weeks, Giovanni, his wife Paola (Laura Morante), and daughter Irene (Jasmine Trinca), remain shell-shocked with grief; with Giovanni suspending his practice, and relations between himself and Paola becoming increasingly difficult. When a letter then arrives from a girl who Andrea had met the previous summer, a girl who none of the family knew anything about, they all become curious to learn more about this person who meant so much to their departed son and brother.