I didn’t know much about The Son’s Room at first, thanks to the scarcity of information about it on the web, so I started the film essentially blind, only knowing the basic plot. For a while, things were okay, but nothing special, or even all that interesting; the film seemed to be meandering a little too much. Then, it finally got to the meat of the plot, and from that point on, the film was transformed in my eyes. The Son’s Room, more than anything, is an exploration of grief; how it affects each person uniquely and differently, and how they deal with it in their everyday lives. I seem to recall another film or two on the list dealing with the same issue, though maybe not in the same way, but I don’t think any film yet has worked the issue as well as The Son’s Room.
Really, the film is essentially an Italian version of Ordinary People. There’s a father (a psychologist), a mother, and a son, as well as a sister, all living together as a fairly happy family. This goes on for about the first half hour, setting up the characters and their relations with each other and what they do (and, in my opinion, it spent too much time on this aspect, but to each his own), and then, the son tragically dies in a diving accident. It is that scene, that occurrence, that shifts the entire film from that point on. After that, every scene, every moment, takes on a profoundly significant meaning; you are no longer viewing the scene as it is, you’re viewing it through the eyes of someone who’s lost a close family member, and that changes everything about what you may be viewing. One of the scenes after the son dies and is soldered into his casket is of the father, played by the director Nanni Moretti, going to a carnival and riding a few rides. One can’t help but wonder what’s going through his head as he takes part in these supposed-to-be pleasurable activities. Every scene takes on a secondary layer to it like this, and it makes the film more compelling as a result; one can’t help but feel the sad irony of the father listening to his patients’ troubles and worries, with them expecting him to help them, and he can barely figure himself out in the wake of his own personal tragedy.
This ended up winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes that year, and for once, for that era of Palme d’Or winners, I don’t disagree. This had more than just great production value, good acting, and a serious dramatic tone. This had feeling, emotion, and a real power to it, rather than just… being there, like Secrets & Lies and Rosetta. I liked it a great deal more because of it, but at the same time, I can understand how some people may be impervious to what this film has to offer, and may dislike it due to it being boring and empty and whatnot. I’d disagree on both counts, but I can understand how some may see it that way. Still, if you’re open to a pretty decent exploration of emotions (or you were a fan of Ordinary People), this’ll be a nice one to spend your time on.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10