Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival
Recalling the affecting parent-child dynamic of his award-winning 1992 film, Stolen Children
, Gianni Amelio
's House Keys
(Le Chiavi di casa
), is an equally outstanding, entirely unique father-son portrait.
Inspired by the book Born Twice
, by the late Giuseppe Pontiggia
, the Italian-language film examines the highly moving bond formed by a long absent father who is reunited with his special needs son.
Those in the market for a generous dose of pathos or a life-affirming message bathed in a swelling orchestral arrangement are advised to look elsewhere.
Fifteen years earlier, Gianni Kim Rossi Stuart
) had walked away from his infant son, who, following a traumatic birth (his mother died on the delivery table), had entered into the world suffering physical and mental damage.
Raised by his mother's family, Paolo Andrea
Rossi in a remarkable debut) meets up for the first time with his estranged father, who will travel with him to a special hospital in Berlin for tests and rehabilitation.
Needless to say, the trip gets a little rocky at times, as the guilt-ridden Gianni must learn how to be a true father to the child he never knew.
Working in the neo-realist tradition, Amelio keeps the artifice to a minimum, instead letting the purity of the performances set the bracing tone.
Rossi's Paolo is such a sharp, socially-attuned kid with a very wry sense of humor that there are times when his disabilities seem to all but evaporate--at least in between the sudden mood swings and bouts of emotional shutdown.
As if some of those wrenching scenes between Rossi and Stuart (who proves to have his own handicaps to overcome), aren't pungent enough, enter ever-reliable Charlotte Rampling
as a French mother devoted to the care of her severely challenged daughter, who stoically helps Gianni come to terms with a not necessarily bright and rosy future.