"Prepare yourself for suffering if you intend to be close to him." So speaks the mother of a young woman with severe disabilities, speaking to Gianni, the father of 16-year-old Paolo, himself developmentally disabled. Gianni abandoned the boy at birth, when the child's mother died, and Paulo's aunt and uncle have raised him. They have contacted Gianni and asked him to take Paulo to Berlin for a battery of medical tests. Images of people walking, running, skating, and dancing dot the screen as Gianni and Paulo get to know each other. Over a few days, Gianni tries to sort out his obligations and his desires. Will he accept his role as father to this engaging, mercurial, disabled youth? Written by
This is the first Amelio movie to be released in the US, at least in a Film Festival setting, in over ten years since Lamerica. But the director's style is still memorable. The camera scans slowly the lost faces of the actors without pity or shame. There is no plastic, no trinkets, no nudging at the spectator. We are there watching and not, it's not really as straightforward as we'd want it.
As in "Stolen Children" or "Lamerica", the main character ambles on scene, uncertain of his role in the life of others or just very mistaken. It learns--maybe, the hard way, one feeling at the time. Kim Rossi Stuart takes the place of Enrico Lo Verso, with a similar style, eyes lost and the silence prevailing over revelatory dialog, but the star is his son in the movie, Andrea Rossi There are no cheap shot. There is no need to. Piety, compassion come from something deeper, and Amelio definitely gets to the grittier level of human emotion. Charlotte Rampling has an amazing role, as the mother of young handicapped woman and the symbolic chorus for the interior dialog of the protagonist. And the dialog is pure and scary as it can be.
It's refreshing to see such moving work that skillfully avoids all the traps of classic Hollywood tearjerkers. The movie reminded me rather of Kenzaburo Oe's "Teach Us to Outgrow our Madness", but it's actually inspired to Giuseppe Pontiggia's "Nati due Volte" (Born Twice), and Amelio pays homage both to the writer and the book in the course of the movie.
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