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  Son's Room, The Sorry For Your Loss
Year: 2001
Director: Nanni Moretti
Stars: Nanni Moretti, Laura Morante, Jasmine Trinca, Giuseppe Sanfelice, Stefano Abbati, Stefano Accorsi, Toni Bertorelli, Dario Cantarelli, Eleonora Danco, Claudia Della Seta, Luisa De Santis, Silvio Orlando, Sofia Vigliar, Renato Scarpa, Roberto Nobile
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Sermonti family lead a happy and contented existence in middle-class Italy, where father Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) is a psychiatrist who loves to help his patients by listening to their concerns and problems; when he encounters a group of singing and dancing Hare Krishnas in the street one day, he is not irritated as some might have been, but he is delighted to witness people who have found a level of joy in their existence that he wishes he could impart to those he looks after. But there is trouble ahead, as he is called to his son's school to meet the headmaster, for his son has been accused of stealing a fossil there. This is the worst possible thing to have happened...

Oh, no it isn't! The Son's Room, or La stanza del figlio as it was titled in its original Italian, was a step up for its director, star and co-writer Moretti, as previously he had been termed an Italian Woody Allen for his subject matter and sense of humour, and not always flatteringly, either. Yet here was a piece with real maturity that stood apart from such comparisons, a film of two halves, as the complacent, bourgeois first thirty minutes or so told the tale of a crisis in the family as the son seems to have committed a transgression of his parents' trust and expectations, and the fall-out from this sends out shockwaves among them, to the extent that many watching would think, "So what?"

This thoroughly middlebrow establishing set of scenes gave plenty of viewers the screaming habdabs as they resisted being drawn into a scenario which just came across as far too comfortable for its own good, no matter what the son had got up to with the fossil. But then Moretti did something more interesting, he gave the family a taste of what a real crisis feels like, an unimaginably awful event that no parent, no sibling wants to hear about, never mind experience. And guess what? While the Sermontis could cope with a little petty theft as a bit of bad behaviour, a phase the son was going through that shrink dad could psychoanalyse, there was no dismissing his actual death.

Although it was well-publicised in advance, when the son dies in a scuba diving accident the sheer horrible, dead weight of realisation for his family that they would never see him again landed so hard that you, the audience, are not sure how to react. Previously you would either be indulging them their foibles and quirks, or rejecting them out of hand, but they were not exactly profound portrayals, yet now we were being asked to regard them as characters out of an Ingmar Bergman film, and not one of those with jokes in. This event is simply nothing they ever prepared for, it was not supposed to happen in their minds, and now it has there is no legitimate reaction they can fall back on, as the mother (Laura Morante) cries in bed, and the daughter (Jasmine Trinca) gets furious.

Meanwhile Giovanni attempts to make sense of it, this senseless event, by going over it again and again, as if reliving the course of time leading up to the tragedy could solve it, an utterly futile act, but what wouldn't be in these circumstances? Moretti applied an unusual style to this, with short, snappy scenes as if it was still a comedy even after the central dilemma occurs, yet also a distance from the grieving as if he did not want to delve into the implications of the ghastliness he had inflicted on his stunned characters. They grow ever more pathetic as their lives refuse to get better, and they are unable to get over this, until a link to the son's past emerges and they grasp at it like drowning men clutching at straws, trying to bring him back into their lives. This might have been where the comedy re-emerged, but what has happened has been too awful, and the final shot left the family wandering as if in a daze, refusing to let go of the past as the future rolls on without them. Music by Nicola Piovani.

[Studiocanal release this on Blu-ray with a Cannes interview featurette as a sole extra (it won the Palme d'Or there).]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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