You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Son’s Room

After his autobiographical chapters "Caro Diario" and "Aprile," Nanni Moretti returns with his first full-fledged narrative feature in 12 years, "The Son's Room," a delicate drama of pain and grief in the wake of family tragedy.

Giovanni - Nanni Moretti Paola - Laura Morante Irene - Jasmine Trinca Andrea - Giuseppe Sanfelice Oscar - Silvio Orlando Raffaella - Claudia Della Seta Tommaso - Stefano Accorsi Arianna - Sofia Vigliar

After his autobiographical chapters “Caro Diario” and “Aprile,” Nanni Moretti returns with his first full-fledged narrative feature in 12 years, “The Son’s Room,” a delicate drama of pain and grief in the wake of family tragedy. Stripped not only of Moretti’s customary narcissism and smug satisfaction but also of sociological and political concerns, this refined, uncharacteristic work cuts deep in other ways, reflecting a new maturity in the director and an emotional resonance that lasts well beyond the end credits. While devotees expecting Moretti’s wry worldview may feel shortchanged, others will find this a profoundly moving experience, giving it fuel to cross borders into the arthouse niche.

The drama bears some similarity to French director Francois Ozon’s recent “Under the Sand,” a considerable shift to a more sober, controlled style and classical approach. Both films deal intelligently with sudden death and bereavement, though Moretti’s arguably is the more heart-wrenching, focusing on parents’ reaction to the loss of an adolescent child.

Moretti previously reflected on personal suffering and the agony of being caught up in uncontrollable events in “Doctors,” the memorable closing episode of “Caro Diario.” But his work here is far more exposed and affecting. “The Son’s Room” recalls the melancholy intensity of Mimmo Calopresti’s “The Second Time,” which Moretti produced and starred in and which screened in competition at Cannes in 1996. “Room” also is strongly tipped to play the Palais in May.

Moretti’s alter ego this time is psychiatrist Giovanni, another investigator of the human condition. Abandoning the director’s beloved native Rome, story unfolds in a provincial seaside town, where Giovanni runs a successful practice from a studio adjoining his pristine, book-lined apartment.

Opening reels are devoted to establishing Giovanni’s orderly, well-nourished family life with his wife, Paola (Laura Morante): Their marital harmony is underlined in a tender sex scene, another first for a Moretti film. They also have two smart, communicative teenage kids, Irene (Jasmine Trinca) and Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice). But the family’s tranquillity is shattered when Andrea is killed in a diving accident.

The foundation-laying for this sudden tragedy is especially subtle as editor Esmeralda Calabria cuts dexterously between the four family members’ pursuits on a sunny Sunday morning. Homing in on brutal technicalities such as the coffin being welded shut and its lid being screwed down, with sound magnified to penetrating extremes, the film begins, roughly a half-hour in, to exercise a gut-level emotional impact that rarely lets up.

Giovanni opted out of a morning jog with Andrea to respond to an emergency call from a patient, a choice then replayed obsessively in his mind. That obsessive streak drives a wedge between Giovanni and his wife, who externalizes her grief in other ways, as does Irene, notably in a powerful scene in which she becomes aggressive during a school basketball match. Giovanni also finds it impossible to continue with his work.

As the family becomes increasingly divided, an external figure lands on their doorstep, drawing all three like magnets. Having met and bonded instantly with Andrea during a holiday romance the previous summer, Arianna (Sofia Vigliar) knows nothing of his death until Paola phones her after reading a love letter and ends up providing the family with a kind of antidote for its pain.

Despite a shoot interrupted by illness, industry strikes and location disputes, the drama is elaborated with organic fluidity thanks to the perceptiveness and economy of Linda Ferri, Moretti and Heidrun Schleef’s screenplay. All the principal characters display a depth that hints at the wealth of unspoken thought and emotion behind their words and actions.

Moretti’s habitual leftist political agenda is absent but many of his customary obsessions reappear, either jokingly, like his passion for running shoes, or more seriously, through the ailments of Giovanni’s patients. Though these characters provide some amusing asides, the analysis scenes generally are less interesting than those centering on the family.

As an actor, Moretti has often been too uptight and self-aware to fully inhabit a character. His own screen persona is still very much present here but there’s also a new sense of vulnerability and humility in his understated performance.

Morante (who partnered with Moretti in “Bianca” and “Sogni d’oro”) is deeply moving in a similarly measured turn; her confused rush of joy and anguish when Paola opens Arianna’s letter is heartbreaking. Newcomer Trinca more than holds her own within the seasoned company, while Sanfelice confirms the promise he showed in Gabriele Muccino’s “But Forever in My Mind.”

Maintaining the quiet, unshowy style evident in every aspect of the operation, craft contributions are impeccable, especially Giuseppe Lanci’s crisp, subtle camerawork and Nicola Piovani’s lovely, unerringly gentle score. Discerning use is made of two key songs, Brian Eno’s “By This River” and singer Caterina Caselli’s version of Paolo Conte’s “Insieme a te non ci sto piu,” heard previously in Moretti’s “The Mass Is Ended.”

The Son's Room

Italy - France

Production: A Sacher Distribuzione release of a Sacher Film presentation of a Sacher Film (Italy)/Bac Films, Studio Canal Plus (France) production, in association with RAI Cinema, Telepiu. (International sales: StudioCanal, Paris.) Produced by Angelo Barbagallo, Nanni Moretti. Directed by Nanni Moretti. Screenplay, Linda Ferri, Moretti, Heidrun Schleef; story, Moretti.

Crew: Camera (Cinecitta color), Giuseppe Lanci; editor, Esmeralda Calabria; music, Nicola Piovani; art director, Giancarlo Basili; costume designer, Maria Rita Barbera; sound (Dolby Digital), Alessandro Zanon; assistant director, Andrea Molaioli. Reviewed at Nuovo Sacher Cinema, Rome, March 7, 2001. Running time: 87 MIN.

With: Giovanni - Nanni Moretti Paola - Laura Morante Irene - Jasmine Trinca Andrea - Giuseppe Sanfelice Oscar - Silvio Orlando Raffaella - Claudia Della Seta Tommaso - Stefano Accorsi Arianna - Sofia VigliarWith: Stefano Abbati, Toni Bertorelli, Dario Cantarelli, Eleonora Danco, Luisa De Santis, Alessandro Infusini, Renato Scarpa, Roberto Nobile, Paolo De Vita, Roberto De Francesco, Claudio Santamaria, Antonio Petrocelli.

More Film

  • A still from Sea of Shadows

    Sundance Film Review: 'Sea of Shadows'

    It’s a decidedly grim circle of life that moves us all in “Sea of Shadows,” a tight, troubling documentary eco-thriller that charts a compelling course of consequence from Chinese black-market apothecaries to the near-extinction of a rare whale in the Sea of Cortez, hitting on Mexican crime cartels and institutional corruption along the way. Austrian [...]

  • Matt Smith, Thomasin McKenzie Circle Edgar

    Matt Smith, 'Leave No Trace' Star Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie Circle Edgar Wright Movie

    Matt Smith and “Leave No Trace” star Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie are in negotiations to join Edgar Wright’s next film, “Last Night in Soho,” sources tell Variety. Details are vague about the psychological horror movie, other than it being set in London’s Soho district. Anya Taylor Joy is also in the cast. Production is expected to [...]

  • Vice Media

    Vice Media Taps Joe Simon as Chief Technology Officer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Joe Simon has been tapped as chief technology officer at Vice Media. The newly created role will include oversight of data analytics, engineering, information technology, media operations, media technology, post production, and systems management. Prior to Vice, Simon spent three years as Encompass Digital Media’s chief operating officer. Previously he held the chief technology officer [...]

  • Michael B Jordan denzel washington

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Denzel Washington's 'Journal for Jordan'

    Michael B. Jordan is in talks to star in Sony’s “Journal for Jordan,” a drama that will be directed by Denzel Washington. The movie, penned by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Virgil Williams, is based on the true story of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Dana Canedy’s love affair with First Sergeant Charles Monroe King. King kept a journal [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone

    Sylvester Stallone's Superhero Drama 'Samaritan' Lands at MGM

    MGM is developing the superhero drama “Samaritan” with Sylvester Stallone attached to star and produce through his Balboa Productions. The studio has acquired Bragi F. Schut’s script, which centers on a boy learning that a missing superhero, who vanished 20 years earlier after a battle, may still be alive. MGM will develop “Samaritan” with Stallone [...]

  • Kendrick Lamar

    Oscars: Kendrick Lamar and SZA Will Not Perform 'Black Panther' Song (EXCLUSIVE)

    Despite the Academy’s efforts to secure Kendrick Lamar and SZA for a performance of the Oscar-nominated song “All the Stars” from “Black Panther” on the upcoming Oscars telecast, the duo will not be a part of the show, Variety has learned. The reason, according to a source close to the situation, is logistics and timing. [...]

  • Oscars Spa Treatments

    Area Spas Offer Red Carpet Treatments in Time for Oscars

    From a shopping session with a celebrity stylist to a covert airport pickup, these hotels and spas are offering even more curated packages for the ultimate VIP Oscar experience. For the Jetsetter Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills’ Doheny Suite Experience package allows travelers to evade the paparazzi with an underground or curbside [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content