"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
An astounding lead performance by a handicapped actor, takes your breath away
This film is remarkable for doing what I would have considered completely impossible, namely featuring a young boy who is severely handicapped as the lead actor, and succeeding brilliantly. The boy is Andrea Rossi, and his performance is one of the great cinema performances of the decade. I don't know how this was possible. Even allowing for the obvious fact that the director, Gianni Amelio, is a man of unique sensitivity and even of genius, I do not know how such a handicapped boy could be such a super-star. It is totally astounding. Those of us who have known handicapped people realize how charming they can be in private. But the idea that a boy so seriously handicapped could totally dominate an entire feature film and be so up-front, and project his personality so powerfully, is absolutely incredible. This is some kind of magic hitherto unknown! Andrea Rossi is not only honest and direct, he is a communicator at a major level. He proves what fantastic talents lie buried deep within people suffering from certain handicaps, and which never emerge because no opportunity ever presents itself. Really, there are no words to express the astonishment and delight with which any honest person would greet the experience of this screen performance by a boy who can barely walk, can barely write, and is handicapped in so many ways (I have no idea of what his illness really is) that he could easily be dismissed by the thoughtless as being unable to participate in normal human society or indeed to have any worth or importance as an individual human being. Andrea Rossi has struck a blow for all handicapped people everywhere, by proving beyond any doubt that appearances can be deceptive, and that someone who looks hopelessly handicapped and barely able to communicate can in actuality be highly alert, intelligent, witty, sensitive, creative, innovative, self-deprecating, amusing, and loving. What an amazing fellow Andrea Rossi is! And he was only twelve years old when he made this film! As for the others in the film, there are spectacular performances also by Kim Rossi Stuart as the boy's father, and Charlotte Rampling as the mother of a more severely handicapped girl. The film is so emotional, so powerful, that you will rarely see anything more moving in your lifetime. The direction is perfect. Everything is perfectly judged and perfectly executed. The interviews with Rampling and Rossi Stuart on the DVD are important and should be watched. I had no idea what a profound thinker and intellectual Rampling is until I saw her talking to the camera about the meaning and significance of this film. She should write books on the philosophy of the cinema. But probably her performances are her philosophy, expressed directly, and aimed straight for the gut. How amazing this film is in every way!
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