The Keys to the House Reviews

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½ July 13, 2013
A fairly simple story about a father trying to build a new relationship with his special needs son who he abandoned at birth. A great performance from Kim Rossi Stuart and a welcome supporting performance from the always great Charlotte Rampling. It's one major flaw is that its scenes with the special needs kids feel a bit too Special Olympics triumph of the human spirit.
January 2, 2013
A film that will stay with you because of its portrayal of a young man with disabilities who was abandoned by his father and how he copes with life. In particular it's about a few days when his natural father is united with his 15-year-old son and the effect it has on both of them.The strength of the film is the astonishing performance by Andrea Rossi as the son Paolo and very strong performances by Kim Rossi Stuart as his father Gianni and Charlotte Rampling as the mother of another patient at the hospital. Rampling really provides the heart of the story, the heartbreak, guilt, love, and perseverance of a parent of a child with severe disabilities. She provides the voice of a lifetime of experience to Gianni who is experiencing this for the first time.The weakness of the film is the back story -- why after 15 years is Gianni finally accepting some responsibility. The idea that his son's doctors think it might be helpful is ludicrous. Shipping off the son by himself with a stranger who doesn't know how to take care of him is child abuse. However the resulting interaction between Paolo and Gianni is riveting and the writers don't give any easy answers or resolution.Visually the film is interesting with trains and other transportation being a primary motif for the changes the characters are experiencing as they travel across Europe.
½ April 11, 2012
A great look at parents (new or not) of children with disabilities. Honest portrayals, interesting insights, and great scenes between father and son. Worth a viewing.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2009
I pulled this movie off the shelf of a rental store at random. I don't really know what compelled me to grab it, but I took it home for a little cinematic gamble. You never know - sometimes you strike gold. This time I did find a true gem. I can honestly say this is one of the best, deepest, and most profound films I have ever seen. The messages are so moving and so artfully communicated. I watched it over and over and over and showed it to my family and friends because this was a discovery that couldn't be kept a secret. It sticks in your mind and you find yourself running over the beautiful nuances of it again and again. One could write a book on everything that's not directly said in the film but lies just beneath the surface. What's more, all this artistry is somehow accomplished without resorting to any Hollywood-formula safety nets.

As the film begins we are introduced to Gianni, who we later learn is about to come face to face with his tortured past. Fifteen years prior to where we come in, a much younger and less wise Gianni impregnated his young girlfriend. She dies tragically in childbirth, but the child survives, though he is severely handicapped. Gianni, no doubt, felt guilt-ridden and in despair - feelings which were only exacerbated by the anger, resentment, and blame he likely felt from the girl's family. The anguish and the guilt were too much for him and he fled, something for which we cannot really blame him, condemned to seek out atonement elsewhere in his new life, which he is determined to do the right way this time. The abandoned child is then taken in by the sister and brother-in-law of the girlfriend.

Flash forward fifteen years where the doctors of Paolo (the child) think it would be beneficial for him to have his father in his life. Here we come in and watch these two struggle to be a family and make up for all those lost years. Gianni, now seeing Paolo for the very first time, feels an instant paternal bond to him. Not only is he confronting his original guilt, but it is now compounded by his fifteen year absence. The whole while he is trying to prove himself as an able caregiver, but he is constantly reminded of his inadequacy. The irony here lies in Gianni's wizard-of-oz complex. He perceives himself to be a failure when, in reality, he proves to be quite a fantastic dad.

Paolo, on the other hand, has a very conflicting agenda. It is said in the course of the film that Paolo likely lacked the affection an infant needs early on. As a result he is very much in need of love as well as independence, probably due to his feeling alone during much of his formative years. The paradox, then, is that, due largely to his severe handicaps, Paolo can never be truly independent. The whole time, however, he tries to show that he can take care of himself as well as be vitally useful to everyone else. He keeps saying how he has so much to do and how busy he is and how they are needing him back home. The keys to the house, for Paolo, embody his need to be important and feel needed - not needy.

As Gianni tries to take care of Paolo and Paolo tries to demonstrate his capability, we must sit back and watch the very real-life conflict play out. Charlotte Rampling's character, a mother of another handicapped girl at the hospital they go to, very appropriately tells Gianni that if he plans to be a part of Paolo's life and be close to him to expect suffering. Parenthood is certainly not easy, and their situation complicates it greatly.

The film ends at a very moving crescendo that took me by surprise the first time, but as I've re-watched and contemplated it there is no other ending to be had. It is the most appropriate. It is beautifully simple and simply beautiful.
April 11, 2009
:fresh: [b][i]Slow moving but effective drama that shows the real life of the parents with sons suffering a disability. The performances are a triumph, specially Charlotte Rampling's. It's not an issue I particularly enjoy to watch, but I must recognize it is a good film.[/i][/b]
½ April 10, 2009
Excellent movie, with great performances, a good story. Very moving. It was at a slow pace.
½ August 8, 2008
great movie... and he's really hot
February 20, 2008
The relationship between a physically handicapped boy and his parents as they struggle to carve out
½ February 16, 2008
It's worth a watch but definitely not a film for everyone.
October 12, 2007
Exceedingly charming and poignant.
September 6, 2007
Almost too realistic to watch at times, this is a heartbreaking look at one man's attempt to atone for his mistakes. Kim Rossi Stuart is a wonder to watch in this, and so is Andrea Rossi as his severly handicapped son, Paolo. Truthful to a fault, the depiction of life with a handicapped child is something to watch with one hand over your heart.
September 6, 2007
great grear greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat
June 19, 2007
It was alright, but it had potential to be better. The story of a relationship between a father and son had direction but I felt it lacked something to drive the emotions. The plot shows the frustration and embarassment of parenting a mentally retarded child that he had out of wedlock. We see the father grow to love him and they get along. He thinks everything will be fine after that and begins rushing into things, but right before a supposed happy ending, he begins to get frustrated with his son again. I like the ending because it's a bit vauge but we make assumption that he begins to realize that the relationship takes longer time and more patience.
July 7, 2007
A good lesson for ppl who take things for granted
July 5, 2007
really not interested
December 27, 2006
Any movie staring Kim Rossi Stuart is bound to be outstanding.
½ October 2, 2005
½ August 11, 2005
[b]DVD[/b] First Viewing, 1 Amelio film seen

I didn't even read the back of [i]The Keys to the House[/i] DVD. All I read was "Italy's entry for Best Foreign Film." I was sold. Having seen [i]The Chorus[/i] just a few days ago, I was hoping to see a film more deserving of the Academy Award nomination. And that's just what I saw.

[i]The Keys to the House[/i] is a very touching a real story about a father who abandoned his physically and mentally disabled son at birth. Now, fifteen years later, doctors have advised that he see his son, hoping for a "miracle." From then on, we see what it would be like to have a disabled child. But it's not in bad taste like [i]The Other Sister[/i] or anything like that. It's emotion is real.

Andrea Rossi plays the child. He is extremely impressive in the role. His chemistry with Kim Rossi Stuart is as lovely as it is heartbreaking. [i]The Keys to the House[/i] may not be earth-shattering, but it is a very good film.
June 26, 2005
This is the last in the accidental trilogy of movies I recently saw about bad fathers. I saw it a couple of weeks ago and have just a very sketchy memory of it at this point. It's the sort of film that held my attention in the theatre but left no lasting impression. The thing I remember about it most is that I walked in about a minute late and spent the rest of the movie fretting over what I might have missed. I hate hate HATE missing the beginning of movies, because even if I didn't miss anything significant, I always think I did. I wish there was a website which described, in detail, the first five minutes of every film for OCD-ish movie lovers like myself who keep wondering what they missed long after they leave the theatre.

[The previous paragraph initially contained a suggested name for the website. It was a very benign name, or so I thought. Just out of curiosity, I checked to see if a site by that name actually existed, and lo and behold, I was redirected to... a porn site. Just to make sure I'd typed it in right, I tried it two more times and ended up on two different porn sites. I'm not sure how to tactfully describe the first one, but the second and third had to do with hirsute women and interracial love respectively. Hopefully the spate of XXX popups which appeared immediately following my visit won't reassert themselves the next time I need to show my boss something on my laptop. Though he probably likes hirsute women.]

Drat. There I go rambling on uncontrollably again. Pithiness is overrated.

So let's see. There's this Italian guy named Gianni who has a 15-year-old son named Paolo. Paolo's mother died during childbirth and Gianni freaked out and left town, leaving another couple to raise him. Paolo has both physical and mental problems. He has thick glasses and a herky-jerky cane-assisted walk and although he often seems quite lucid, every once in a while his brain seems to go haywire and he starts behaving erratically. I don't know if this is a real disease that Paolo has or a made-up movie disease, but whatever the case, it requires that he regularly go to a German hospital for therapy.

Gianni, out of guilt for abandoning Paolo at birth, volunteers to accompany him on one of his trips and his adoptive parents agree. Things are awkward at first, with Gianni alternating between looking like he's embarrassed by his son and acting like he thinks he's going to break him every time he helps him change his shirt. Paolo is a very affectionate, smiley kid and takes to Gianni right away, despite having never met him before. Eventually, as you might imagine, Gianni is won over by Paolo's genuine warmth and the two start bonding. Awww.

Although the film is sort of predictable, it's hard not to be charmed by Paolo. And though the material has schmaltz written all over it, the sap-o-meter needle rarely sproings to unacceptable levels. I had a little bit of a problem believing Gianni's sudden transformation from deadbeat dad to father of the year, but that's just me. Maybe the key to Gianni's metamorphosis was all explained in the first 60 seconds while I was still out locking up my bike. If you happen to have seen it, please tell me what transpired so I can find something new to obsess about.
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