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The Keys to the House Reviews

Even more astonishing that the superb acting is the simple fact that director Gianni Amelio (LAMERICA, THE WAY WE LAUGHED) has managed to craft a touching tale of a father reunited with his disabled son without the slightest whiff of sentimentality. Fifteen years after he handed his infant son over to the care of the boy's aunt Livia and uncle Alberto (Pierfrancesco Favino), Gianni (Kim Rossi Stuart, Italy's answer to Jude Law) decides it's about time he took responsibility for his own flesh and blood. Older and hopefully wiser now than when his then-girlfriend gave birth to Paolo, Gianni lives a relatively stable life: He's married, has eight-month-old baby and enjoys a steady income with a household appliances company. Paolo (Andrea Rossi), however, is no ordinary adolescent. Alberto tells him that at the age of six he was still unable to walk, and it soon became quite apparent that the boy was both physically and mentally disabled. Undeterred, Gianni takes Paolo to an orthopedic specialist in Germany for some tests and therapy. On their first day in Berlin, Gianni is charmed by the boy's humor, friendliness and bravery; on the morning the second day, however, shortly before he's to be admitted, Paolo begins to act out, and even though he's been told who Gianni is, Paolo isn't quite ready to accept the fact that this virtual stranger is really his father. At the hospital, Gianni meets Nicole (Charlotte Rampling), a mother who comes to Berlin with her disabled daughter every six months for therapy. Nicole tells Gianni that, as much as she loves her daughter, many of her dreams ended the day she was born. At first Gianni denies being related to Paolo, but Nicole can tell from his apprehensive, embarrassed look when he's with the boy that Paolo is his son, and helps Gianni accept his new role as father. Loosely based on Giuseppe Pontiggia's novel Born Twice by the Italian author — the book Nicole encourages Gianni to read in order to help him come to terms with his new life with Paolo — the film takes a serious look at parents who lives are forever defined by their children's disabilities. Rossi, who is disabled in real-life, is a real charmer, and it'll come as no great shock that Rampling, who's clearly entered a particularly rich phase in her long career, turns it another strong performance. Stuart, however, is the real surprise here. Once a teen heartthrob, he's matured into a fine actor who's understated work is in perfect tune with Amelio's clear-eyed treatment of a potentially melodramatic subject.