The 2004 film directed by Gianni Amelio Le chiavi di casa (The Keys to the House) is a very emotional film that deals with illness, family values, and unconditional love. It is a story that any human being can appreciate, no matter where you come from. It is a story of a man who, for the first time in his life, is meeting his fifteen year old son. What sets this story apart from the rest is this man, whose name is Gianni, not only has a fifteen year old son that he has never met, but his son is handicapped with muscular dystrophy. Seeing their relationship develop in the 105 minutes in which the film takes place is very touching to watch. You see these two strangers get to know each other over the course of a short period of time, and you get to see the love they begin to have for one another. Watching them onscreen together is something that touched me. The way that Gianni would look at his son was so full of raw emotion. You could tell as an audience member that he knew he missed a lot of things in Paolo’s life, and he didn’t want to miss anything else ever again. The conversations they have are never ones of importance (they talk about really general things), but even though the topics were not that important, the way they talked to each other was. They were getting to know each other, and it was very emotional to see them do that throughout the film.
This is also a story of forgiveness. When his son was born, Gianni walked out on him. The boy’s mother dies giving birth to him, and when Gianni learns that not only is the mother dead but the child will have many complications for the rest of his life, he immediately flees. He doesn’t even look at his son before he abandons him. The handicapped child, whose name is Paolo, is raised by his aunt and uncle. He never actually meets his real father until now. When this was all told in the beginning of the story, I wanted to hate the character of Gianni. How can somebody be such a coward and leave their newborn son like that? But as time went on, you can’t help but like Gianni. I wanted him to do well, I wanted him and his son to bond, and I wanted him to become a real father to this wonderful child. Andrea Rossi, the actor who plays Paolo, actually has muscular dystrophy in real life. Watching him on the screen was amazing. He was brilliant in this role, and actually having to live with this disease throughout his whole life made it all that more real and moving. The way these two people interact was something you could not look away from.
Another important character in this film was that of Nicole, played by Charlotte Rampling. She was someone that Gianni met in the hospital, and she too has a mentally and physically handicapped child named Nadine. She and Gianni become fast friends, and she teaches him so much about life and the struggles that are apart of it. She never ran away from her responsibilities as a mother, but she also doesn’t fault Gianni for running away from his. She gives him hope, and she ultimately makes him want to become a better person, for himself and for his son.
In conclusion, this film really spoke to me. Having members of my family that are handicapped (although not as severely as the children in this film), it is nice to see a film about handicapped people without one mean or negative thing said about them. Gianni isn’t afraid anymore of what he must do for his son. He just doesn’t want to see his own flesh and blood in any more pain. (There is even a scene in the film where Paolo is in the hospital getting his blood taken, and Gianni has to leave the room). He knows he is new to all of this, but he is willing to do whatever it takes to be there for his child. This is essentially a love story, but not between two adult people, but between and man and the son he never knew. It is a beautiful film.
I also looked online to see what other people thought of the film. It was interesting to see their reactions to it. Here are a few links I found that had some opinions of the film.