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Son’s Room, The

Nanni Moretti

La Stanza del figlio

A popular winner of the Palme d’Or at the last Cannes Film Festival, Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room certainly marks an impressive change of direction after the easygoing charm of his two best known films, The Son’s Room and Aprile. It’s a moving, often painfully honest meditation on the effects of the death of a loved one and was precipitated by Moretti’s own contemplation of mortality following his reaction to the diagnosis that he was suffering from a non-malignant cancer.
The film focuses on an affluent psychoanalyst, Giovanni (Moretti), who lives an idyllic bourgeois existence in a small Italian town. Genial by nature and besotted with his wife Paola (Laura Morante), Giovanni also dotes on his two children, Irene (Jasmine Trinca) and Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice). Working from the small practice that adjoins his apartment, Giovanni spends his days listening to the various neuroses of his troubled patientsoneuroses that are far removed from his own tranquil, untroubled existence. A decision to give up a family Sunday to visit a distant patient brings catastrophic results when Andrea makes fresh plans to go diving with friends and never returns.
Both structurally and thematically, The Son’s Room is more focused, less scattershot than Moretti’s previous works. The witty elliptical asides and playful vignettes are dispensed with (the director is often lazily dubbed an Italian Woody Allen) in favour of a more cohesive narrative about love, loss and the need for personal redemption, which in less assured hands could have played out as a mawkish, overtly sentimental and sermonising family melodrama.
Moretti and his co-writers Linda Ferri and heidrun Schleef fashion something altogether more telling: an authentic, incisive and deeply affecting drama about insurmountable grief and the fragile fabric of life. Anchored by Giuseppe Lanci’s delicate, unfussy photography and subtle, suitably nuanced performances by a pitch-perfect cast (not least Moretti himself), The Son’s Room is a genuinely affecting experience, charged with both humility and humanity. The film’s melancholic but never self-pitying tone is echoed by the evocative use of Brian Eno’s ‘By This River’, which lends it the feel of a tonal poem. This is an audacious work from a director with the intellect and the integrity to confound expectations.
Italy-France, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 99 mins.

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