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
  to others.

          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.


                          
Rating:                 B+   
                          
MPAA Rating:         R for language and some sexuality   
                          
Running time:       99 mins.                          
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.