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:: La Stanza Del Figlio (the Son's Room)

This has been a film that I’ve been keen to see. It has won several European awards, including the prestigious Palm D’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. “The Son’s Room” is the latest film by celebrated Italian director Nanni Moretti. He also co-writes, co-produces and stars. He also has the services of the wonderful composer Nicola Piovani (he scored Life Is Beautiful). So, there’s a lot going for it already. This film is probably more straightforward than Moretti’s previous work (eg Caro Diario) and isn’t filmed in Rome. This time he goes to Ancona.

In playing the lead role of Giovanni, Moretti dramatically extends himself. Giovanni is a psychiatrist, living and working in a small town with his wife Paola (Laura Morante) and two teenage children. He is much loved as a father but, due to work, he doesn’t feel as close to his son Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice). Still, his work involves listening to the various neuroses of his troubled patients, while savouring his happy family existence. Maybe his existence is too routine.

One Sunday morning, he wants to spend time with Andrea and go for a jog, but a patient calls and requires attention. The tranquillity of a normal family existence is shattered forever when Andrea makes fresh plans to go diving with friends, and sadly never returns. Suddenly, Giovanni’s decision to rush to a patient’s call seems like a tragic, unforgivable error.

Moretti doesn’t flinch in showing the anguish and sorrow that the death inflicts upon the family members. Not that everyone reacts the same. Moretti does a fine job in getting the viewer to understand Giovanni’s mindset. Communication breaks down in the family. Paola is frustrated by her husband’s inability to express himself. Giovanni tries to unlock his pain in a series of scenes that are quietly powerful – like asking questions at a diving equipment shop and going to a record shop to buy a particular CD. And one can observe a change of relationship between Giovanni and his patients. He loses confidence in his therapeutic abilities and decides to abandon his practice. His wife Paola stops work at an art-publishing house, while their daughter Irene (Jasmine Trinca) expresses distress through her passion for sport.

Moretti’s real inspiration is in the final flourish of fate, which he conjures out of nowhere: a hidden piece of Andrea’s past that surfaces after his death. It’s a satisfying twist that underscores the film’s tenderness and humanity. The film’s melancholic, but never self-pitying tone is echoed by the evocative use of a forgotten Brian Eno classic song, “By This River”.

Much has already been said about a comparison to “In The Bedroom”. In that film, an uncomfortable thriller ending expunges grief and loss. Here, Giovanni’s family has to endure the pain with no revenge fantasies to fall back on. It’s more convincing and moving. Nanni Moretti and his co-writers have delivered a major work that shows further evidence of the current quality of European cinema. “The Son’s Room” is highly recommended.

Screening at the Rivoli Cinemas, Cinema Como, and Kino Cinemas