Nowhere Special


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Nowhere Special
"There is something quite profound here about learning to achieve what you can in the moment and for making peace with a situation you are unable to change."

At the risk of making myself redundant, you only need to look at the premise for this film to know whether it is definitely not for you - given that it is squarely focused on a dying man, John (James Norton), who is trying to find an adoptive family for his four-year-old son Michael (Daniel Lamont).

That being said, providing you are in a space where you can cope with having your heart gently broken over the course of an hour and a half, Uberto Pasolini’s contemplation of a man grieving for the passing of his own life is well worth your time. The director, who previously made the equally moving Eddie Marson film Still Life, which came at death from an unusual angle, avoids mawkishness in favour of a more subtle exploration of letting go.

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This is not a movie involving diagnoses or death scenes but one that considers the bit that comes between knowing you have a short time to live and the end game itself. In this space, John has to come to terms with what will happen to him at the same time as attempting to broach some of the emotional territory with Michael, even if the youngster doesn’t yet have a grasp of the concept of death.

In between Michael meeting various potential parents – most perfectly ordinary and welcoming if not quite the perfect fit - Pasolini lets his drama unfold in moments that could occur in almost anyone’s life. There’s a real naturalism to a shared shopping trip between Michael and John, where we see the sort of everyday dialogue parents have with their kids about things to go in the trolley showing how this sort of activity often becomes a sort of game for both parent and child.

Norton as well as Pasolini deserves a lot of credit for striking a genuine rapport with his young co-star, so that their dialogue is kept simple and unforced, with Norton conveying much of what John is experiencing via looks alone. While the film doesn't pretend to know exactly what is going on in Michael's head, it gets down to his level and captures those small moments of joy and conflict that pepper all parent and child relationships. The production design also adds a lot to their shared, if brief, history, stickers on bathroom wall an indication of all the playtimes that have gone before.

There is something quite profound here about learning to achieve what you can in the moment and for making peace with a situation you are unable to change, as John makes his way through his own stages of grief. When the dad and son are outside it seems to almost always be raining and though Pasolini’s film will also make it rain in your heart, it reminds you of just how warm any moment can be in the right company.

Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2021
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John, a 35-year-old window cleaner, devotes his life to raising his young son Michael as a single dad, but after he's given only a few months to live, he tries to find the perfect set of adoptive parents.
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Venice 2020

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