|The Son's Room
(La Stanza del figlio)
As recent events have only made clear, each individual deals
with grief in a different manner. Some may seek solace in their
religious faith, others may drown their sorrows in alcohol or other
substances, while others may fall prone to depression. For some
families a trauma can draw the individual members closer while in
others, it tears them apart (sometimes irrevocably).
Filmmaker Nanni Moretti achieved success in his native Italy
with a series of semi-autobiographical, political comedy-dramas.
International audiences (especially those in the USA) perhaps first
became aware of him with 1993's DEAR DIARY/CARO DIARIO,
in which he portrayed a movie director and which earned him the
director's prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Eight years later,
Moretti won the top prize at Cannes for THE SON'S ROOM/LA
STANZA DEL FIGLIO, a sober drama that explores how a family
reacts when tragedy strikes. (The film was also screened at the
2001 New York Film Festival.) Perhaps American audiences and critics
unfamiliar with Moretti's oeuvre might not fully comprehend why their
European counterparts have embraced this chamber drama. For
Moretti, it's a leap forward in his career; while there are elements
from his earlier work, there is also a maturation. His earlier work
has is in a more narcissistic vein. Not that there aren't traces of
it in THE SON'S ROOM, but in this case the self-absorption
eventually is broken down allowing Moretti's character to reach out
Giovanni (Moretti) is a psychoanalyst working out of his home.
He has a beautiful wife (Laura Morante) and two seemingly adjusted
children, Irene (Jasmine Trinca) and Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice). But
there are signs that all might not be well with his teenage son. The
boy is accused of stealing a fossil from a school science lab and his
parents rush to his defense. (He later confesses to his mother that
he did indeed steal the object, but only as a joke. It was his
intention to return the fossil but then it broke.) There's some of
the usual father-son tension as the younger male seeks to make
his way in the world. When his father cancels a date to go jogging
with his son in order to tend to a troubled patient, the stage is set
for tragedy. Indeed, while Giovanni is struggling with his client,
Andrea goes off on a scuba diving expedition and suffers an accident.
The death of a child is perhaps the most horrific event any
parent can experience. Giovanni, of course, blames himself -- and
worse, his needy patient. He constantly plays the "if only ..." game
(as in "if only I had gone jogging with Andrea"). All sorts of
thoughts torture him; was it really an accident? Why Andrea? The
usual sort of thing. While certainly somewhat melodramatic,
THE SON'S ROOM doesn't go off on dramatic tangents. Instead,
Moretti (who co-wrote the screenplay with Linda Ferri and
Heindrud Schleef) focuses on the mundane, the day to day rituals
that are now upended. There's an emptiness (symbolized by the
title) that cannot be filled. For a man so used to aiding others
in their problems, Giovanni is helpless. He cannot heal his own
pain, how can he be expected to aid his grieving wife or daughter?
The film takes a surprising turn near the end when an off-screen
character decides to make an appearance; that individual's presence
begins the healing process for Giovanni and his family and allows
the film to end on a somewhat hopeful note.
Moretti's direction is understated and quiet. It allows for the
accumulation of detail, letting the audience get to know the members
of the family as individuals and then watching at a remove as they
nearly come apart. As a screen presence, Moretti is reserved, a
control freak watching in horror as everything around him collapses.
Laura Morante provides the emotional core to the film as Paola,
who is wise enough to understand her husband but at pains
to provide him with the comfort or absolution he requires.
THE SON'S ROOM is a chamber drama that explores how
one family reacts to the unthinkable. While it eschews flashy
techniques and high drama, it serves as a low-key reminder of
the private anguish and anger that can arise from a tragedy.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexuality
Running time: 99 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.