The Son's Room Movie Review

For those who associate Italian cinema with Fellini and "high art," The Son's Room is an inventive, subtle alternative. Written by, directed, and starring Nanni Moretti, it takes us through the slow, complicated path of bereavement.

Slow is the best description for the film at first. It takes its time in establishing the habits of what appears to be a normal, happy family. Father and mother both work but still find the time to support their son and daughter through homework and after school activities. They laugh, spend free time together, and reprimand the kids for innocent wrongs with a sigh and soft pat on the shoulder. You get the feeling there is open communication and unconditional love amongst the foursome.

But suddenly, the son is found to be dead after a diving accident. The family dynamics begin an unpredictable descent that gives the narrative strength when you least expect it, but can also be trying on the attention span. Though the film drags and even repeats itself, this can be somewhat excused as influenced by the process of grieving.

Though Nanni Moretti wore several hats for this production, it doesn't come across as a vanity piece. One might wish he hadn't picked the profession of analyst for the father, Giovanni (which he stars as), if only because this makes his character's reactions so predictable. What saves it is a well written script, with spare dialogue and an eclectic variety of human interaction.

The potency of the film lies in the recreation of the tiny details of everyday life that alter due to the death of a close relative, or that remind a depressed person of loss. You start to take notice of the cracked dishes, ignored when familial bliss was in full swing. You remember bonding during the routine jogs around the block, and not necessarily huge events like graduation.

Even better are the role reversals that take place within the household. While Giovanni and Paola (Laura Morante) do check up on their daughter Irene (Jasmine Trinca), there is a sense of being on autopilot. Not only does Irene begin to take care of her own needs more, she'll make her parents breakfast in an attempt to crack their new shells to life around them. These scenes provide interesting portrayals of various coping mechanisms, frequently crossing a boundary as to how much you can help yourself versus others during drastic, unexpected change.

Respectfully, gender issues never enter the picture. Self-propelled isolation is universal in terms of dealing, so Moretti intelligently uses this tool to separate the family. Though Giovanni does stop Paolo from discussing Andrea at a party with friends, there is never a sense that he or she is more stoic, or more correct in the search to restore a sense of a balance to their lives.

Most films that broach the topic of death utilize annoying melodrama, speeches, and conciliatory issues to get the waterworks flowing. In contrast, The Son's Room captures a more realistic depiction of the effects of death on a family by graciously flowing among the five stages of mourning (denial, depression, anger, bargaining, acceptance) through each of its main characters. It's not the most engaging 100 minutes, but it is certainly easy to relate to.

Aka La Stanza del Figlio.

Father and son.


Comments

The Son's Room Rating

" Good "

Rating: NR, 2001

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