The Son's Room (La Stanza di Figlio) (15)

Review by Simon Bell

AN ordinary and untroubled family of psychoanalyst Dad, art gallery supervising Mum and basketball fanatic daughter are forced to confront and reassess all that has gone before when their beloved son and brother dies unexpectedly in a freak scuba-diving accident... That's pretty much all there is to The Son's Room.

But don't be deceived: This 2001 Palme d'Or-winning gold nugget isn't as simple as it may first appear; there's more substance to this 87 minutes of auteurship than is contained in a sackload of film's appearing elsewhere on Indielondon's pages.

Giovanni, with his profitable practice, lives in relative harmony in the Adriatic beauty of Ancona. (Several strikingly photographed images, care of Giuseppe Lanci, invite innocent wonder as Moretti jogs along a spring sunshine-drenched harbour over the opening credits). There he resides with gorgeous wife Paola (Laura Morente) and teenage kids Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice) and Irene (Jasmine Trinca).

Thirty minutes of crafted exposition later, tragedy strikes: Having to cancel a jog with his son to attend a patient's possible suicide bid, Giovanni allows Andrea to meet friends for the doomed boat trip. What follows is an acute and emotionally wrought portrait of a man and his brood consumed with guilt and despair.

An actor, writer, producer, director and exhibitor (this latest is also made by his own production company, Sacher Film), Nanni Moretti is best known in the UK for Dear Diary (1993) and Aprile (1998). But while these are serio-comic documentaries, The Son's Room is not played for so many laughs. (There is, however, a moment when Giovanni stands in rapt stupefaction of a group of dancing Hari Krishnas that has an echo of his earlier work.)

Scenes in the consulting room, as he tries to instill a modicum of rationality into his patients' very irrational lives, provide fleeting moments of comic relief, and it's here where those who like to label Moretti the "Italian Woody Allen" will derive most enjoyment.

Meanwhile, and easily the most devastating, is an exchange between husband and wife that centres on a teapot: The attention to detail is awe-inspiring.

Nicola Piovanni - an Oscar-winner for his saccharine musical composition on Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful (1997) - adds a touch too much sugar once again. But with additions in the form of Brian Eno and Michael Nyman, we'll forgive him. For, otherwise, The Son's Room is a picture of perfection.

Serious film fans shouldn't wait one glug of grappa longer: This is an unarguable work of genius befitting of both its praise and prizes.