"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
"Le Chiavi di Casa" is a strangely unmoving film, considering its potentially heart-melting subject: it had all the elements to make us dehydrate out of crying, and yet it leaves us distant. It sure isn't the fault of funny, charming young Andrea Rossi, who plays the disabled Paolo; Rossi is utterly inspiring (as he must certainly be in real life) and full of joy. But the script is filled with annoying idiosyncrasies -- they make you go "naah!" when you should be swept up in the story. How can the father not go looking for his missing disabled son in a foreign city and choose instead to tell his life story to a woman he's barely met? And what about him throwing the boy's walker at sea? Or leaving the boy alone at the hotel? Or stealing him away from physical therapy? Or not even asking his wife about his new-born baby back home? Was there EVER a more inept father?
These inconsistencies are enhanced by Kim Rossi Stuart's frustrating, uncharismatic performance: he's like a top model lost in a gritty drama -- handsome but shallow, bordering on moronic. Anyway, the point of this review is to praise Charlotte Rampling: what an actress she has become over the years! Film after film, she graces us with memorable performances, from "Sous le Sable" and "Swimming Pool" to "Lemming" and the otherwise insufferable "Vers le Sud" and now "Le Chiave...". She has reached this age when her (naturally aged) face is so rich and lived in that she can build a flesh-and-blood character with one look and one half-smile. In her very first scene, we feel at once we KNOW that life-beaten mother. Her "big" scene (where she reveals her tormented thoughts about her severely disabled daughter) is the most heart-wrenching thing in the whole movie -- you can totally sympathize with her obvious but "controlled" grief and her "living day-by-day" philosophy. You see a woman who's cried every single tear out of her body through the long years of devotion to her daughter, her youth and hopes lost along the way. You can understand her envy of mothers whose children have had better results from therapy than her own daughter, and even understand her mixed feelings about her daughter's attachment to life ("Perché non muore?"). Her performance is so good it makes her lines sound better -- even if her Italian is less than fluent -- than anything else in the script.
My vote: 6 stars out of 10. If you happen to have a disabled relative or friend that you take care of (or care about), that rating certainly goes up.
27 of 45 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?