Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Son's Room (2001) Film Review
Nani Moretti’s Palme d’Or-winning exploration of the fragility of family life is a quietly devastating but surprisingly life-affirming film, brilliantly written, wonderfully acted and full of simple beauty.
Moretti stars as Giovanni Sermonti, a psychoanalyst who appears to get very little in the way of job satisfaction from his rotating cast of patients. His home life is a source of refuge – perhaps under-appreciated – where his wife Paola (superbly played by Laura Morante) and children Irene (Jasmine Trinca) and Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice), offer a picture of familial contentment rarely seen on screen. Andrea is accused of stealing a fossil at school, but Giovanni and Paola are convinced of his innocence. Irene stars for her school basketball team, and flirts openly with her boyfriend while Paola and Giovanni especially eavesdrop at the kitchen table.
The film proceeds episodically, the warmth of the familial environment buttressed by the cinematic warmth of Moretti and cinematographer Giuseppe Lanci’s camera work, which envelops the characters, the camera roving around them and gently pushing in to invite us for a closer look at their everyday troubles.
And yet. One morning, Giovanni is drawn away from a cosy family breakfast scene by a suicidal patient who insists that he must see his analyst as soon as possible. Giovanni ruffles Andrea’s hair, promising that they’ll go for their run another day. But they won’t. Tonal shifts, driven by the score, begin to unsettle the seemingly ordinary visit of Giovanni to his patient, his daughter’s scooter trip to basketball and Paola’s seeing off of Andrea to go diving with his buddies. Andrea’s subsequent drowning plunges the family into the depths of a raw and inconsolable grief.
Laura Morante’s performance of the rage, anguish and injustice that Paola feels as a mother losing a teenage child is deeply affecting. Giovanni, meanwhile, replays the morning in his mind over and over, a series of what-ifs that can do nothing but torment. The scene in which the family say their goodbyes to Andrea as he rests in his casket marks a sort of aesthetic of bereavement rarely seen on film: its unadorned honesty and simple economy sensitively draws forth the numbing pain that these characters are suffering. A scene in which Giovanni visits a funfair brilliantly highlights his loss in the contrast of this middle-aged man in an environment normally marked for the young; its glaring neon noise a stark counterpoint to Giovanni’s blank, bereft disposition.
The film then takes a surprising turn, again marked by a simplicity and humanity that makes a somewhat hopeful and affirming ending from such tragic circumstances. A female pen pal gets in touch with the family, unaware of Andrea’s death, and promises to visit. Her appearance with a male friend, and her warm recollections and mementos of Andrea bring the family back from the depths of bereavement, however temporarily, to warmly reminisce about these unknown lives that Andrea has touched and, in the promise of the girl and her hitchhiking friend, young lives still to be lived.Reviewed on: 24 Nov 2020