Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Kim Rossi Stuart (L) & Andrea Rossi
Photo: Lions Gate

Directed by: Gianni Amelio.
Produced by: Enzo Porcelli.
Written by: Gianni Amelio, Sandro Petraglia & Stefano Rulli.
Director of Photography: Luca Bigazzi.
Edited by: Simona Paggi.
Music by: Franco Piersanti.
Released by: Lions Gate.
Language: Italian with English subtitles.
Country of Origin: Italy/French/German. 105 min. Not Rated.
With: Kim Rossi Stuart, Charlotte Rampling & Andrea Rossi.

Gianni (Kim Rossi Stuart, a cross between Maxwell Caulfield and Grant Show) reunites with his handicapped son Paolo (Andrea Rossi), whom he had abandoned at birth. He accompanies the 15 year old, who appears to be much younger, to Berlin for a series of tests and observations. He's afraid to take his eyes off the boy, trying too hard to help. Paolo is many ways a typical teenager - moody, stubborn, striving to be independent. He pushes his dad away, reminding him, "I can walk, you know." At the hospital, he routinely and patiently submits to having blood drawn; Gianni, looking on, feels sick. Nicole (a serene Charlotte Rampling), a French mother of a handicapped daughter, immediately notices Gianni in the corridor - he is the only father there. She also notices his shame.

The film has an unhurried pace as it follows Gianni and Paolo. Detachedly observing Gianni's growing and frustrating relationship with his son, which is born out of guilt as well as love, the many single-shot scenes capture more than just a sense of the long road ahead for Gianni. A simple outing to a basketball game turns into a nightmare as Paolo, discarding his father's admonition, doesn't stay put when his father's back is turned.

The mood is restrained and the scenes repetitive, so it is startling when there is a sudden burst of emotion as Gianni interrupts a doctor's examination and makes a made dash to embrace his son or Nicole confines to Gianni her darkest thoughts. Like Gianni, the viewer will need patience for the taxing, drawn-out interactions. The film's saving grace is not only the effective ending in which the future is uncertain, but also Gianni himself. He is way over his head and dangerously naive to think he knows what is right for his son, making the film less predictable. Kent Turner
December 22, 2004



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