Movie Reviews
9:22 am
Wed April 3, 2002

The Son's Room

The film deservedly won the top prize last year at the Cannes Film Festival...

"The Son's Room" reminds me why I love character-driven European films: the pace is slow, the camera lingers on a face longer than an American shot would dare, and the theme is frighteningly simple but almost always universal. In this case, a loving family has lost a son; the grieving process and the letting go are painful and inevitable. The film makes it all as lyrical as could be possible for a grim topic.

The point of view is consistently the psychiatric-professional dad's, who regrets he had not forced his son to run with him rather than go with his friends that fateful Sunday. Dad's sessions with clients frequently mirror his personal family life, before and after the tragedy, adding a melancholy connection between this flawed evaluator of men and his clients. In a dream he tells one of his clients, "I’m just as boring as you are," certifying that our analyst and the rest of us are neither above nor below the ties that bind humans. Nanni Moretti writes and directs with Jean Renoir's gifted sense of the romance and tragedy of living everyday.

The exaggerated scenes of happy family life before the tragedy, for instance when they lip-synch to tunes during car trips, serve to highlight the unbearably real grief after. Eventually it takes a young outsider to move the characters to another level of reconciliation. Throughout the film the son's room maintains its role as motif to remind that the son, like us, lives in this space for just a short while.

This plot resolution is best expressed by the lyrics on the radio as the family comes to terms with its grief in the final scene:

"Here we are stuck by this river/You and I underneath a

sky/That's ever falling down, down, down."

This ending fits well the need to get outside grief to beat it at its corrosive game. "The Son's Room" shows that we will be crushed by that sky if we don't take care.

The film deservedly won the top prize last year at the Cannes Film Festival.