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Antoine de Caunes
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The Lu Le,
Thi Kieu Trinh Nguyen,
Huu Thanh Nguyen
"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'(Home's keys) is an Italian movie about a father and his 15-year old disabled child. The boy can't walk properly, his arms seem permanently bent in a 90 degree angle, his upper back is slightly hunched forwards. The movie is tough, unsentimental, and all the more moving for that.
The father Gianni, has never seen Paolo, his child. The reason will be unveiled in the second half of the movie and it enables the viewer to identify with the father: we get to know Paolo at the same pace his father does. They are on a trip to a Berlin hospital dedicated to rehabilitative therapies and treatment for the disabled.
It's a journey back to a lost fatherhood for Gianni and it's shown through the physical rapport between father and son. The first time Gianni meets Paolo he doesn't so much as touch him. The boy is asleep in his train compartment. The camera doesn't show us his face. Gianni is hesitant about his role as a father and they're still strangers.
In the next 'phase' Gianni tends to Paolo, he helps him to walk, to go to the bathroom, he washes him.... Then a crucial scene comes: Gianni witnesses a therapy session. Paolo walks back and forth aided by a kind of cane on small wheels. The process is painful and Paolo suffers. It is at this moment that Gianni acknowledges his son's body as one not to be aided or 'corrected' but as one capable of suffering and therefore, of affection too. This realization culminates in a beautiful scene in which Gianni starts by arranging Paolo's hair and then kisses him and caresses him every other second as if the boy were a 'cagnolino', a little pet dog. But this is not a rosy postcard.
At the Berlin hospital Gianni meets a French lady (Charlotte Rampling) who has a severely disabled daughter, she's been tending to her every need for over 20 years. This lady has a tendency to be brutally honest without ever really being impolite, but in one of their encounters she tries to put a brave face on things when Gianni asks her how she can look so serene after all she's been through. She doesn't tell all the truth and that's a crime that an actress as talented as Rampling cannot leave unpunished, and I guess that's why Amelio wanted her for the part. The next scene is formally simple and elegantly executed and we see in Rampling's face and hear in her lines what her character has been through during all those years, how her body has also suffered.
The three main actors are great, Kim Rossi, Rampling and the kid, Andrea. Kudos to Amelio, the director.
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