Monday, October 1, 2007

Movie review: Keys to the House

This film deals with the subject of a father who abandoned his disabled son at birth after his wife died in childbirth. Left in the care of relatives, Paolo reaches the age of 15 without ever meeting his father Gianni. It is arranged for them to take a trip together to the hospital in Berlin and this movie covers that trip and its immediate aftermath.

During the trip, father and son deal with not only the experiences at the hospital - in which Gianni becomes Paolo's protector when an overbearing doctor pushes him beyond his physical limits - but with their developing relationship as they get to know each other. Gianni's awkward attempts at parenting his disabled son range from tender to the absurdly comic.

Gianni meets the mother of a 20 year old disabled woman, to whom he lies about his relationship with Paolo, denying he's the boy's father. However, she picks up on the true nature of their relationship, calls him on the fact that he appears to be ashamed of Paolo, and in several riveting scenes talks about her experiences parenting her daughter. Their situations are in stark contrast - the father who doesn't know his own son and the mother who says her entire life has consisted of taking care of her daughter.

Gianni struggles with Paolo's physical and psychological limits, torn between denial and acceptance. The movie doesn't fall into the trap of handling this 'reunion' as sentimental; rather it contains scenes openly acknowledging that Gianni abandoned his son and felt he couldn't handle dealing with Paolo's disabilities. This had the effect of portraying Gianni as a human being with as many, if not more, limitations than his son.

In the end, this film raised more questions than it could answer, which seemed an honest handling of the complex emotions involved. However its best moments were those which reflected the pure joy of father and son with each other, expressing their joys, sorrows, fears, and, ultimately, love for each other.

Genres: Art/Foreign, Drama and Adaptation
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Release Date: January 1, 2004
This movie contains subtitles.

{visual description: A scene from the movie is shown where Gianni holds his son Paolo, who is laughing, up in the air.]

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