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.
Having been raised by his aunt and her partner, Paolo has developed a keen sense of determination and a sensitivity that his father seems ill prepared for. We find them on a trip to a specialist hospital ward in Berlin where Paolo is to undergo tests and treatment for his condition and it is here that they meet Nicole, mother to another handicapped child. It is she that helps Gianni come to terms with his actions and prepare him for what he is to face and this leads to a journey where Gianni learns as much about himself as he does about his son.
Kim Rossi Stuart as Gianni is magnificent and manages to impart a difficult role with a touching humanity and vulnerability. Andrea Rossi as Paolo allows us an insight into a world that craves independence but needs constant reassurance and support. Charlotte Rampling as Nicole proves why she is one of the finest actors of her generation as she manages to convey more emotion in a single glance than many can in a whole movie.
This is not a big story, it is a quiet, reflective and intimate tale and it is beautifully directed. Gianni Amelio allows his cast to play out the full depth and range of emotions that the story requires. There are long periods of silence and the film is peppered with tiny moments of tenderness and humanity which make this a rare and effective gem of a movie that has lessons for all of us.
A serious story overall, with a fair share of light moments and poignant ones. A beautiful ending.
not to mention that its a double pleasure when the father character is sooo good looking :)