The Keys to the House Reviews
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.
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.
[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.