THE SON’S ROOM (La stanza del figlio) A
Italy France (99 mi) 2001 d: Nanni Moretti
Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, this is a gentle, humane, and brilliantly written film about one family’s reflections on grief and loss, set up initially with simple glimpses into a warm family environment where the two kids and parents are not afraid to speak to one another, and, they genuinely like each other. Moretti himself plays a psychologist, and one by one, brief vignettes of his patients are revealed, and at least initially this provides comic relief, contrasted against a healthy and sexually satisfying marriage, featuring the lovely Laura Morante as his wife. But then the son has a tragic sea-diving accident and each family member becomes paralyzed with grief over his loss.
Perhaps the most dramatic scene in the entire film is Moretti going to his daughter’s high school basketball game, his daughter Irene (arguably the best performance in the film by Jasmine Trinca) is dribbling the ball and sees her father on the sidelines, not yet knowing about the accident, and beams a happy smile at him, but when she sees the seriousness on her father’s face, she freezes, giving him the most haunted expression of pain in the film, and another girl steals the ball from her. Mind you, he hasn’t told her anything, but their closeness is revealed in how much she instantly knew just by looking in her father’s face, and the expression on her face is unforgettable.
Later, Moretti is listening to music, which reminds him of shared moments with his son, and he repeats the same brief musical refrain again and again, as if he was trying to control or program his memory while the camera finds the faces of each family member listening. Each of them subsequently have moments of inconsolable pain which they suffer alone, they break down uncontrollably, then try to regain their composure, and these brief portraits of pain speak volumes about what this film has to say, as they are among the most intensely passionate moments you’ll experience in a film, at times accompanied by a lilting piano theme by Nicola Piovani. Surprisingly, the power of these scenes is how short they are, little bursts of emotion, where nothing is played out, and the scene moves on.
Moretti’s patients begin to fill him with the depth of his own human vulnerability, and he stands on the same outer emotional edges for awhile. His wife finds a love letter written to her son from a girl none of them have ever met, where she immediately marches into her son’s room just to feel again his overwhelming presence. There are moments (repeated psychiatric sessions) that may not always work in this film, but they are dwarfed by the power of the ones that do, especially a killer ending that works through poetic understatement, the beautiful use of Brian Eno’s song, "By This River," By this river (Brian Eno) - La stanza del figlio (Nanni Moretti ... YouTube (2:56), and the assuredness of Moretti’s direction. In the end, this is a carefully constructed, transforming film, all too human, heartfelt and affirming.