The Son’s Room

Movie Information

In Brief: There’s nothing really wrong with writer/director/star Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room (2002), but neither is there anything all that special about it. It’s a small, well-intentioned study of a family coping with — and not coping with — the drowning death of the son. I enjoyed it well enough while it was onscreen. I even admired Moretti’s use of alternative “what if” scenarios. And I certainly found its depiction of a family affected by grief far more believable and effective than the strident dish-breaking, breast-beating of the similarly-themed In the Bedroom, which came out about the same time. In fact, the two films make an interesting study in contrasts. (They're also a lesson in the transitory nature of even an art-film cause celebre. When's the last time you heard anyone talking about either one? Even in art cinema, the Next Big Thing is only big for a while).
Genre: Drama
Director: Nanni Moretti
Starring: Nanni Moretti, Laura Morante, Jasmine Trinca, Giuseppe Sanfelice
Rated: R



In many ways, The Son’s Room plays like a more rational take on the same material as In the Bedroom, though that’s probably partly due to the lack of the melodramatic elements of murder and “the justice system has failed us.” Moretti’s intent is obviously quite different. He wants to explore and even celebrate the way in which his characters deal with the unexpected death of a family member and to do so in a reasonably subtle manner. That’s a noble ambition. The problem is that it’s not ultimately all that compelling.


The Son's Room 2a


But the film is at least not open to the polar opposite interpretation that a film like In the Bedroom is. (One wonders if the makers of In the Bedroom realize just how many people view that film’s revenge plot not as the hollow, destructive act they intended, but as a victory). I’m not even sure why The Son’s Room is not the powerful film it ought to be, but it just isn’t. It’s perhaps a case of going to the well once too often, since the material is far from new and offers us precious little that we haven’t seen before. And, despite its many fine qualities, it’s the kind of import that might go almost unremarked upon were it not an import and one that coasts by on the vague feeling that a film is somehow magically more artistic if it has subtitles. (Are we really so insecure in our own culture that we automatically assume that foreign-language films are deeper and more artistic?)




The Son’s Room is undeniably well-made and the performances are never less than good, with Moretti’s being rather more than that. It’s in Moretti’s favor that the film manages to remember that there is humor in even the grimmest of events. That’s not so surprising for a man who’s best known as a comedian, but it’s the sort of thing that helps make the film believable and human in a way that many “important” pictures are not. Still, I have to admit that the film rarely moved me and it most certainly didn’t stay with me. In the end, it’s an adequate film with obviously good intentions, but intentions only carry a thing so far. It’s not exactly a disappointment, but neither is it likely to excite anyone very much.

 Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present The Son’s Room Friday, Sept. 4 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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