Not many films beginning with the death of a wife and mother are as optimistic as this. After the loss of his Lara, television executive Pietro (Nanni Moretti) is trying to make life as stable as possible for his beloved little girl, Claudia (the excellent Blu Di Martino), but after taking her to her first day back at school he discovers he just doesn't want to let go.

So he promises her that he'll wait outside the school, and he does so. Not just then, but the next day, and the day after that. Gradually he gets to know the other people who inhabit the area and becomes something of a local celebrity, sitting on his park bench or dining in the nearby cafe. He discovers a world that's light years away from what he's known, and his priorities gradually change in a way that will profoundly affect even the business world he's avoiding.

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Quiet Chaos is a film about the startling events that often define lives, and about the strange quietness that follows them, that curious emptiness that's filled with possibility. Aside from his bereavement, life doesn't seem to be too hard on Pietro. He's surrounded by an unfeasible number of beautiful women who want to hug him (and sometimes more); his business colleagues come to him for advice, and the children in the area adore him. The serendipitous nature of this enhances our awareness of his introspective state - it's not so much that the world is paying more attention to him as that he has started to pay more attention to the world, and to notice more good things in it.

In parallel to this we see the upshot of a reckless act of heroism on his part unravelling through another story of loss and discovery. There's an incongruous sex scene that serves as focal point for the strong emotions generally kept under wraps, but Pietro never comes across as the stereotypical victim in denial - he's just approaching grief in his own, different way, and much of that is about growth and renewal.

With its simple plot and gentle pacing, Quiet Chaos relies on character and performance to keep viewers interested, and for the most part it pulls it off well. The soundtrack is sometimes rather heavy handed and certain motifs become repetitive, but there are lots of well drawn minor characters and their stories - or rather, the glimpses we get of them - are deftly told. This is an inventive and poetic film which many viewers will find delightful.

Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2008
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A bereaved husband decides to spend each day waiting for his daughter outside her school, discovering a new world in the process.
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Director: Antonello Grimaldi

Writer: Nanni Moretti, based on the book by Sandro Veronesi.

Starring: Nanni Moretti, Blu Di Martino, Valeria Golino, Alessandro Gassman, Hippolyte Girardot, Isabella Ferrari

Year: 2008

Runtime: 112 minutes

Country: Italy, UK

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