The Keys to the House Movie Review

The film that carved a niche out for this one is Rain Man. Though The Keys to the House is not, by any means, an imitation, it is about a young person with a handicap and a caretaker. Here, it's 14-year old, mentally impaired Paolo (Andrea Rossi) and the father who abandoned him years before.

Gianni (Kim Rossi Stuart -- no relation), wants back into his handicapped son's life years after he turned away because of birth defects that he wasn't prepared to cope with. He now faces the scary prospect of re-introducing himself to the boy and turning his biological role into an actual one. His trepidation derives from the fact that communication with Paolo is unpredictable and he doesn't know how the boy will receive or relate to him.

Gianni takes it slow as Paolo's reactions are friendly and accepting... up to a point. Gianni is ready for the challenge, expressing love and devotion at every turn. He has already mentally re-adopted the boy and soon becomes a father in the fullest sense of the term, dutiful, selfless, protective. For Paolo, however, the trail to trust is strewn with doubt and continuous testing.

Taking Paolo to a Berlin hospital for diagnostic tests he's never had, Gianni meets a slightly older woman, Nicole (Charlotte Rampling), whose life is similarly a matter of attending to the special needs of a mentally handicapped offspring. She's a mirror into the future for Gianni, one which he doesn't shrink from. Once she puts Gianni and Paolo together as father and son, it's an easy matter for her to foresee their future. "Prepare yourself for suffering," she warns.

Truly, the emotions that strain a relationship in which there is total dependency present a Herculean challenge in which devotion for the care-giver and trust for the dependent are the prime and basic necessities. Not only are the truths of the matter traced unsparingly in this screenplay, but the actors convey it with candor and to the point of pain. Rossi's portrayal is utterly consistent and leaves a strong impression. The size of a caregiver's sacrifice is expressed by Rampling with bald openness.

A study of a serious issue more than a simple entertainment, this is not the stuff of commercial drama. It's arthouse fare for anyone whose thirst for substance and meaning is slaked by such films as Lorenzo's Oil and The Sea Inside. Those who find this kind of material weepy are advised to give it a pass.

Director Gianni Amelio put this super-sensitive material together with co-writers Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli (inspired by Giuseppe Pontiggia's novel Born Twice.) It was Italy's official selection for Best Foreign Language Film in the 2004 Academy Awards.

Aka Les Clefs de la Maison and Le Chiavi di Casa.

He laughed, he cried.


Comments

The Keys to the House Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 2004

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