Top positive review
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A perceptive, beautiful film
on 5 February 2003
This is a superb, moving film that is strongly recommended. Nanni Moretti has spoken in interviews of how he felt a great need to make it: to look at what life is like after the death of a loved one, to consider how grief can separate rather than unite the bereaved. There is much warmth within the film, too: Giovanni and Paola and their teenage children Irene and Andrea enjoy being together, and the early scenes of the family before their tragic loss are marvellous for the believable and realistic way in which a happy family is portrayed.
Ancona, a town in central Italy by the Adriatic Sea, is lovingly photographed by Giuseppe Lanci. Most of the action takes place here, in the family's attractive home and the adjoining consulting room of Giovanni, a psychoanalyst. The settings are nearly always full of sunlight, subtly emphasizing the fact that Giovanni, Paola and Irene can clearly see the finality of Andrea's death, they have no religious beliefs from which they can draw comfort. Moretti has said that he 'wanted this film to be true', and it is: Moretti felt that many film directors, particularly in Italy, avoided really facing the subject of death by approaching it in a comic or grotesque way ('characters dancing a kind of tarantella around the corpse...mobile phones ringing, relatives bickering'). For Moretti and Giovanni and his family, death is as Tom Stoppard described it in 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead': not 'romantic, and not a game that will soon be over' but 'the endless time of never coming back'.
Moretti and his exceptional cast (especially Laura Morante as Paola, and Jasmine Trinca as Irene) sensitively convey the despair, rage and emptiness which follows Andrea's slightly mysterious death. Yet, the film is not depressing, and there are many lines which will make you smile, especially those spoken by some of Giovanni's patients, who cheer themselves up after their psychoanalysis by buying clothes from the surrounding shops ('I should tell my cousin to open a shop here').
Like Nanni Moretti himself, who is an actor, writer, director, producer and film exhibitor (he owns the Nuovo Sacher cinema in Rome, which shows independent productions by filmmakers such as Ken Loach and Abbas Kiarostami - and which is named after his favourite cake) the film is both serious and good-humoured. 'We can't control our lives completely,' Giovanni says to a patient near the beginning of the film, 'we do what we can'. This refreshingly honest study of a family doing what they can in terrible circumstances is a very memorable, subtle film (with an ingenious final act) which leaves an impression of laughter and love as strong as the pain of separation.