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The Son's Room: Inside a son's room
The Cannes International Film Festival, which just ended on the French Riviera (May 2001), threw up many thought-provoking works. But Nani Moretti's emotional masterpiece "The Son's Room" was the Italian's director's first in many years to actually connect so splendidly with the audience. And with the jury too, which gave it the top prize, the Golden Palm.
Moretti's earlier movies, like, for instance, "Dear Diary" and "April", may have been far more personal than his Cannes Competition entry, but "The Son's Room" has a certain appeal - some called it emotional blackmail, though I would not agree with this - that gets the viewer hooked to the story.
Which is a delicate drama that takes places on a seaside Italian town among the members of a small family. The father, played by Moretti himself, is a psycho-analyst. The mother is a teacher. Their son and daughter make up the rest of a picture perfect family.
On a Sunday morning, as the father is ready to go running with his teenage son, a patient calls him and wants to see him urgently. The father-son expedition is called off, and while Moretti is busy listening to the woes of his patient on the couch, the boy goes diving and dies in an accident.
A terrible guilt grips the man; his wife tries to reassure him that the son would have gone diving in any case, albeit a little later. But the pangs of dismay trouble Moretti, who feels that destiny could perhaps have been altered if only he had not rushed to see his patient.
"The Son's Room" is an exceptionally crafted film, which gradually reveals how the daughter, the mother and the rest come to terms with their angst. Helping them out is the son's girlfriend, who comes to visit the family and help it tide over a crisis.
This picture unspools a new maturity: it shows Moretti is no longer afraid of making something not so personal, and yet something as distressing and yet sweet as "The Son's Room", with a kind of emotional resonance that lasts long after the end credits.
Also, some of Moretti's characteristics are absent. His habitual Leftist political agenda is missing, though his obsession for running shoes and ailments appear with singular regularity. Some of the scenes dealing with his psycho-analysis may look far less interesting than those with his family, but the patients, if one notices with a certain degree of concentration, help to build up the climax, and, later, to underline Moretti's troubled mind and soul.
(The story/review appeared in The Hindu dated June 1 2001)