Gianni Amelio’s film may have a few flaws, but it’s one that is impossible to dislike. When Gianni’s (Kim Rossi Stuart) wife dies in childbirth, after having given birth to a severely handicapped son, he can’t cope with his loss. He walks away, having never seen his son. Paolo (Andrea Rossi, a real life sufferer of muscular dystrophy) is raised by his aunt and uncle, Gianni’s brother.
It’s fifteen years later, and Gianni has agreed to accompany Paolo to Berlin for tests. Gianni has since remarried and his wife has given birth to a son, now 6-months old. Gianni has begun to feel all the emotions of a father who has abandoned his child – for whatever reason. So he struggles with forming a bond with his son. The wonder is that the sanguine if sometimes mercurial Paolo seems to harbor no resentment against his father. He’s accepted as his lot whatever the world has given him and makes the best of it, turning the trials he has to endure on a daily basis into little games. What a great performance by Andrea Rossi, He’s so genuine, with those expressive eyes that will melt your heart. The script gives him a playful sense of humor and a large imagination. And this is a film that doesn’t have a dishonest instinct as it presents the conflicts head-on.
Charlotte Rampling (and what a body of work she has on her resume!) is the mother of a much more severely handicapped girl, who sniffs out Gianni’s struggles, and offers him her support and advice. She’s done this for twenty years with her daughter, devoting her entire life to loving her, and warns Gianni that it’s never easy. She even admits that still, from time to time, she wishes her daughter would die. There are no easy answers here, but only pictures of life with its trials and tests of courage.