The Keys To The House

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Best known here for ‘Stolen Children’ (1992), Italian realist Gianni Amelio again proffers a potentially mawkish story of tainted childhood – this time, mercifully, with far less sentimentality than in the earlier film. The child here is 15-year-old Paolo (Andrea Rossi), who suffers from muscular dystrophy and has been living with his late mother’s family ever since his father Gianni (Kim Rossi Stuart – no relation to the younger actor) abandoned him as a baby. Now, it seems, Gianni’s at last ready to take responsibility – on his first encounter with the boy, he’s taking him for tests and treatment at a special children’s hospital in Berlin. Will he be up to the task? That his son’s mostly a cheerful, independent sort helps more than it hinders (though it does both); useful too is advice offered by Nicole (Charlotte Rampling), whose daughter – also at the clinic – requires an unthinkable amount of time and attention. In the end, though, there’s no single sure way of making such relationships work…
Amelio’s film succeeds primarily because it’s not a sob-story about the suffering of the disabled, but a tougher take on the problems, pressures and pain faced by parents of children in need of unending, constant care. Working from a screenplay co-written with Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli (‘The Best of Youth’), he sensibly builds the film around the charismatic Rossi, who responds with a beautifully open performance. At first Nicole appears too serenely wise, and there are implausible, needless contrivances (Gianni entrusted with taking abroad a disabled boy he’s never even met), but overall this is a sensitive, intelligent, insightful movie.

Release details

Rated: PG
Release date: Friday April 1 2005
Duration: 105 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Gianni Amelio
Cast: Charlotte Rampling
Andrea Rossi
Kim Rossi Stuart
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