23 September 2003 | WriterDave
A True Find
Unless going the abstract and mysterious route in telling a story about "real" people with "real" issues and psychological problems, I've always preferred the understated and subtle approach to the gritty or flashy and overtly self aware. In only his second film, Tony Barbieri proves he is a master or subtlety. Here we witness a rather straightforward tale about a young boy (played with surprising range by the young Cody Morgan) with an emotionally disturbed mother (played deftly by Nastassja Kinski) who uses his rich imagination to cope with the dire situations around him and comes to befriend a retired psychologist (a rich and understated performance from Robert Forster). We never get the full back-story. What the boy knows, we know, and his limited understanding of the problems around him frame our viewing experience. There are no flashbacks or time shifts or 'revelations' or inventive camera work to be found here. The seemingly 'hands-off' style of story-telling comes across at first as simple and later as very refreshing and surprisingly honest, because in the end you realize this was more of a work of art than you thought (that's subtlety at its best), and that it was the good writing, simple framing of scenes and camera angles, and understatement of everything that added deep meaning and emotional resonance to the film. There are also many disturbing truths to be found here as the young boy's life slowly unravels, yet it's treated so 'quietly' that it never shocks or comes across as blunt or cold. This is simply life how it really is. Things aren't nicely tied up, not all secrets are revealed, people lie, connections aren't always made and life goes on. In the end, the viewer is left wondering whether the closing scenes of the boy on the boat are simply another one of his fantasies or the true fact of the matter. We are left with a pleasing sadness, aware that either way, the boy has someone learned to survive.
This film is virtually unknown (no theatrical release, a brief run on the festival circuit a few years back), and I happened across it by accident on a pay channel while surfing the boob tube one quiet rainy night. It made me want to track down Babieri's first film 'The One' and clued me in to a hope that one day this man can make a film everyone will be talking about. This could become a small "lost" classic one day if Barbieri ever delivers a commercial and critical hit. As it stands now, this is independent film-making at its best.