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

  • Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Honored

    Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Named Honorary Argentine Academy Members

    BUENOS AIRES — In a ceremony just before Friday’s prize announcements at Ventana Sur, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian Festival, were named honorary members of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a new move for the Academy, out through by its new president, Bernardo [...]

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content