Nowhere Special

 

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James Norton is magnificent in a moving story about a father and his young son.

 
Nowhere Special

   

This is the third feature to be directed by Uberto Pasolini and in each case he has worked from his own screenplay. Nevertheless, he is probably better known as a producer, not least because he had that credit on The Full Monty. Even so, the second of the films which he made himself, 2013’s Still Life, won awards and undoubtedly pleased audiences. His new work, one inspired by a true story, has much in common with its immediate predecessor and, having myself regarded Still Life as a film spoilt by the sentimentality of its closing scenes, I am pleased to say that I regard this latest piece as a huge step forward. It would have been all too easy for Nowhere Special to be equally sentimental, but this time that is avoided. Furthermore, the filmmaking here is distinguished on several levels: the acting is very fine indeed, the casting perfect (right down to the minor roles), the photography is excellent and the editing contributes significantly to the overall impact.

 

However, for all the talent around him, it is Pasolini’s setting of the right tone and his ability to sustain it throughout that is crucial to the film’s success. Nowhere Special is the story of a window cleaner living in Northern Ireland. This is John (James Norton) who is 34 years of age and who is bringing up on his own his son, Michael (Daniel Lamont), a boy not more than five years old. Theirs is a close and rewarding relationship but from the outset we are made aware that John has been diagnosed with an illness so serious that he has only a short time to live. Realistic about the situation and refusing to succumb to self-pity, John sets out to find somebody to adopt Michael (the decision is taken bearing in mind the fact that the boy’s mother, a Russian, had deserted John long ago and had returned to her own country so cannot now be traced).

 

The father/son relationship provides the touching heart of the film, but the audience is drawn in by another factor as well. Early on, scenes showing John at work enable us to glimpse other people’s lives through the windows that he cleans and that’s a neat way of inviting us to compare his stark situation with the routine lives of others. That is further developed when the film shows father and son visiting the homes of a whole range of possible adopters, people with contrasted backgrounds and outlooks. Just as John himself worries about whether or not he has the necessary instinct to make the right choice amongst them, the audience will similarly make their own assessments and draw their own conclusions. It is this element that shapes the film so effectively and it provides the focus of the last scene of all. Just ahead of that, a few sequences arise that are somewhat divorced from this specific theme and lack something by comparison, but that’s a minor point.

 

One other doubt, a slightly stronger one, came over me at times due to the fact that it is very late on before John starts to broach the subject of death in talking to Michael. In view of that I did feel that, young as the boy is, it was unlikely that the child would refrain from asking questions about the various visits to the homes of potential adopters. But in every other respect Nothing Special rings true and Pasolini could not be better served by his players. As a very young child actor making his debut, Daniel Lamont, wonderfully natural throughout, put me in mind of Vincent Winter in that 1953 classic The Kidnappers and James Norton, so good in Mr Jones (2019), is even more memorable here. Nowhere Special successfully combines quality with genuinely wide appeal.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: James Norton, Daniel Lamont, Eileen O’Higgins, Valerie O’Connor, Valene Kane, Keith McErlean, Chris Corrigan, Siobhan McSweeney, Stella McCusker, Niamh McGrady, Caolán Byrne, Rhoda Ofori-Attah.

 

Dir Uberto Pasolini, Pro Uberto Pasolini, Roberto Sessa and Cristian Nicolescu, Screenplay Uberto Pasolini, Ph Marius Panduru, Pro Des Patrick Creighton, Ed Masahiro Hirakubo and Saska Simpson, Music Andrew Simon McAllister, Costumes Maggie Donnelly.

 
Picomedia/Digital Cube/N.S.L./Rai Cinema/Red Wave Films-Curzon.
92 mins. Italy/Romania/UK. 2020. Rel: 16 July 2021. Cert. 12A.