6 October 2011 | RJBurke1942
Where tragedy sparks the need for change.
Chaos is part of the human condition, as is death. Combine those three aspects in a narrative that explores the grieving process of a well-to-do business man, and you have the basic plot for this film.
Each of us grieves in our own way but generally in a manner that's well-known and understood. The man of this story, Pietro Palladini (Nanni Moretti) is different, however, when his wife dies unexpectedly (in the first ten minutes): his attitude is one of apparent indifference. Moreover, his behavior takes another turn when he insists on remaining outside his daughter's school every day, all day, instead of returning to his highly paid, high-powered position as a senior executive with a company that's infighting a merger with an American outfit. When called by his office, he insists he can do his work in his car, or while sitting on a park bench opposite the school...
That sort of aberrant attitude raises questions and helped this viewer to stay with the story to peel back the layers and find out what's eating Pietro.
As the widower, Nanni Moretti gives a quietly brooding and pensive performance that has an almost di Nero quality. It's contrasted nicely with Carlo (Alessandro Gassman), Pietro's celebrity brother who is as extroverted as Pietro is the opposite – the veritable chalk and cheese. Between the two is Pietro's daughter (Blu Yoshimi) who also displays a marked lack of affect after the death of her mother. On the periphery to those three are the women who intrude upon Pietro's solitary quotidian watch over his daughter's school: Marta (Valeria Gollino), his nervously unstable sister-in-law; Eleonora (Isabella Ferrari), the woman whom he rescued from drowning in the film's opening sequence; and the stunningly ravishing Jolanda (Kasia Smutniak), the young woman who insists upon walking her dog – and herself – closer to where Pietro sits, with each passing day. As Pietro sits and watches her, his gaze tells us he's wandering into fantasy, without a doubt...
And, from time to time, some of Pietro's colleagues from the office turn up to discuss office politics and the impending merger – capped, I might add, with a cameo from Roman Polanski as Steiner, the business mogul who wants to use Pietro to help with the merger.
Except for one torrid, animalistic sex scene – simply a cry for connection between two lonely people – this is a gentle story that's beautifully photographed around Rome and Lazio, Italy. The acting, especially from Moretti and Yoshimi, is without fault, I think; and Valeria Gollino always gives pleasurable viewing. The soundtrack is adequate; the pacing is in sync with a story that is very much about self-analysis and introspection i.e. some might think too slow – but the editing and direction keep the narrative moving well.
So, enjoy the views, the music, the shaded park, and the transient visitors as Pietro comes to terms with his loss. Highly recommended.