Time Out rating:
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Time Out says
Tue Oct 21 2008As well as writing, directing and appearing in his own work, Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti sometimes acts for others, as is the case in this moving adaptation of a novel about a widowed father, which was a hit in Italy. Moretti, an endearing and humane presence, is Pietro, a businessman with the relaxed demeanour that only serious wealth allows. We meet him on a beach, playing ball with his laidback brother Carlo (Alessandro Gassman), before both are forced to dive into the sea to rescue a pair of women. One tragedy averted, another emerges: Pietro arrives back at his holiday home to find his ten-year-old daughter Claudia (Blu Yoshimi) in a state: her mother – his wife – has fallen and died.
The first few minutes threaten a weepie along the lines of Moretti’s ‘The Son’s Room’, but what unfolds involves a strange conceit that suggests a lower-budget American studio film seeking indie kudos: Pietro returns Claudia to school and proceeds to run his life from a nearby bench, honouring a promise that he’ll never stray far. He strikes up habits and acquaintances: there’s the blonde with the dog; the woman with a Down’s syndrome son who expects him to flash his lights; the guy that runs the local trattoria… Meanwhile, all sorts of shenanigans are unfolding at the office, culminating in a brief visit to the bench by a Richard Branson-type uber-exec played by a director whose identity I won’t reveal.
The film has flaws – not least an awkward use of songs by Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright and Stars – but it’s a thoughtful portrait of the purgatory of grief that prefers small incidences and exchanges over grand gestures of sentiment and revelation. It’s sad – but never cloying.
Author: Dave Calhoun