The Son’s Room

Nanni Moretti is one of those European "treasures" who make a dozen films before anybody in America ever hears about them. Known for his low-budget, politically-tinged, semi-autobiographical comedies, Moretti does a turnaround – and thus wins American distribution – with this tender tearjerker about a middle-class Italian family torn apart by the sudden death of their teenage son.

Writer/director Moretti plays the father, a successful psychotherapist who rethinks his career, as well as everything else, as he tries to deal with the loss. His wife (Laura Morante) loses it completely. Their teenage daughter (Jasmine Trinca) struggles to cope in her own way.

Moretti chooses to depict his characters' lives in quotidian terms, even before the tragic accident. Adhering to this approach even after the son's death underscores the point of his story, which is to show the day-to-day challenges than an ordinary family goes through as they come to terms with the death of their own. The Son's Room has dozens of affecting moments – some lasting just a few seconds or one shot – as it eschews melodrama.

It's interesting to compare this to the similarly-themed In the Bedroom, an American film which deals more bitterly with death, and in its American way is more by-the-book. The Son's Room is equally difficult to watch – an hour of grief is no fun for anyone to sit through – but it has a gratifying emphasis on realistic, deeply human characters whose lives feel much larger than the little we glimpse of them during the film's relatively brief (99 minute) running time. This is a story that will haunt you long after its supremely graceful conclusion.