The Son’s Room (2002)

SonsposterA son makes any family better. Even if he is a bit of a scoundrel.

Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) lives a relatively peaceful life with his family. While he suffers from all sorts of annoyances and craziness at his therapist job, he can always rely on going home and feeling relaxed with everyone around him. His wife, Paola (Laura Morante), doesn’t do much but sit around the house and ensure that everything is fine; his daughter, Irene (Jasmine Trinca), focuses most of her time on basketball and getting a good education; and his son, Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice), while normally a good kid, has been going through a bit of problems as of late. After getting called into school for a supposedly missing piece of fossil, Giovanni starts to question whether Andrea is the good kid that he raised to become. The rest of his family questions the same thing, all until they are struck with a tragedy that not only alters their lives completely, but makes them reconsider everything to come beforehand.

I think we all know what daddy's thinking.
I think we all know what daddy’s thinking.

If you’re looking for an all out, drag out, yelling, crying and slobbering mess of a movie, the Son’s Room is not that movie. What writer/director Nanni Moretti does very well is that he doesn’t allow for his movie, or his characters, to dive deep into the idea of guilt like we tend to see in films of this nature. Rather than having characters break down into terrible fits of sobbing, blaming one another, pointing the other finger, and just generally acting like and total complete messes, the characters instead play it down a whole lot more. Instead, they keep everything to themselves, only occasionally acting out in fits, but never overdoing it.

In a way, this is a lot more like real life. Not everybody on the face of this planet deals with guilt as if they were in some sort of daytime soap – sometimes, people deal with their own personal demons in their own way, where it’s much easier to bottle things up and keep it quiet, rather than let it all out for the whole world to see. Moretti could have easily allowed for the Son’s Room to break out into over-the-top and melodramatic hysterics, but thankfully, avoids any of these issues. He keeps everything much more focused and small, where not everybody’s breaking down into tears everywhere they go, but at the same time, nobody’s fully feeling great, either.

This is smart of Moretti and it keeps the Son’s Room, if anything, honest and raw.

At the same time, it’s almost too downplayed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fine with a movie keeping its volume muted to where we don’t always get those typical conversations about guilt between people, but there comes a point where the movie has to do something, hell, anything to keep itself alive. Moretti opts more for keeping his focus tightly on these characters, but also doesn’t give them much to say or do; they all seem to just walk around, mope, kick dirt, and occasionally drop a tear or two. The movie may not want to go for those big, powerful emotions, but in by doing so, also forgets to even try and touch the audience anymore.

A father and son can't be beat.
A father and son can’t be beat.

It’s admirable that Moretti doesn’t try to overdo his hand too much here with the Son’s Room, but there’s a feeling while watching this movie that there’s maybe something missing to go over that sentimental hurdle. Once the actual tragedy comes in, the movie kicks itself into high gear and shows just how each and every character deals with their own sadness and guilt, sometimes, in their own, respective ways, but the movie then sort of drops itself down after that and leaves some of these scenes to linger on too much, or hardly having any sort of impact to begin with. Breaking down at your day job? Seeking out for former loves of the dead? Getting into fights at basketball games? I don’t know about you, but none of this really sounds or feels like actual heartbreaking moments of down and out tragedy, which is why a lot of the Son’s Room, while smart and subtle, also isn’t very moving, either.

If anything, it’s maybe too tiny and small for it’s own good.

However, Moretti deserves at least some credit for keeping the Son’s Room smart. He avoids the typical cliches that make stories like this nauseating and annoying. Instead of becoming a Lifetime movie, it’s much more like a docudrama, where we have characters that we can relate to, and maybe possibly identify with, and we just sort of sit back and watch how they live. This peering into some people’s lives is interesting, even if Moretti can’t push it to that next step to where we feel emotionally and physically moved. Instead, it’s just more interesting, and that’s about it.

Consensus: By keeping the focus smaller and detailed, Nanni Moretti allows for the the Son’s Room to be realistic, while also not impacting the viewer nearly as much as it probably would like to.

7 / 10

Miss those days of a family piled into the car, singing Italian songs.
Miss those days of a family piled into the car, singing Italian songs.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert, The Guardian, I Love Italian Films, Mountain Xpress

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