Nowhere Special is Uberto Pasolini’s first feature credit as writer-director since the release of Still Life seven years ago. Such a lengthy hiatus has given the Italian filmmaker plenty of time to invest his passion and enthusiasm into other projects, namely the completion of this latest screenplay. On the whole, the world may well be forever grateful that he did take this meticulous approach, as this latest project proves to be a gut-wrenching and emotionally exhausting drama exploring the delicate themes of loss, family values and death – a package so devastating that tears are destined to fall.
Starring a gaunt James Norton, Nowhere Special transports you to Northern Ireland alongside John (Norton), a window cleaner whose life revolves around loving and caring for his young son Michael (Daniel Lamont). The pair are inseparable following previous hardships over the years, with Michael’s mother unexpectedly leaving them without explanation. However, John is now hiding a new secret, one that is slowly but surely chipping away at his strong and silent exterior, leaving him desperately lonely in a doomed and terminal health-related battle. Gradually growing weaker, the father must make the hardest decision of his life, choosing the right family to look after his son once he is gone, all the while finding the right way to warn Michael of what is to come and how he must continue on without him.
Based on a true story, Nowhere Special is a desperately sad character study that grabs you from the opening scenes and leaves you crying for the central pair. No family should ever have to be in the scenario they find themselves in, but the reality is that this situation is more common than you could ever imagine. The screenplay is a dagger to the heart that Pasolini continues to twist and drive deeper and deeper as the film continues, calling upon the expert skills of Norton to bring the words to life.
A versatile actor you would perhaps not initially think of for this type of role, Norton shows yet again how far his talents go, building John not only into a pitiable character but a parent navigating a path on which many of us thankfully never have to set course. His on-screen partnership with the adorable Lamont is lovely to behold, as authentic as any father-son relationship can be. It’s this that makes the tale so powerful, but so soul-destroying at the same time.
The pair do not go anywhere “special” in particular, with the title suggesting that the real destination lies in John’s tireless efforts to explain what will happen to him in death. Instead, the world is very small for the duo, with all the matters being where and how they spend this precious time together. For John, Michael’s future and happiness is his sole purpose and final duty; everything else holds little significance as they travel the streets of their hometown. Pasolini approaches the subject of bereavement and passing onto a different place so beautifully, presenting the greatest level of complexity possible through the inclusion of the innocent and unknowing Michael, whilst at the same time elevating scenes with very little dialogue through exceptionally moving direction.
Premiering at Venice Film Festival, Nowhere Special may not be filled with an abundance of laughs or dynamic scenes, but this expertly crafted feature is expressive, sensitive and incredibly touching. As as the end credits roll you will be reduced to tears without fail, with the poignant conclusion providing both satisfaction and a painful sadness that could melt even the coldest of hearts.
Nowhere Special does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Venice Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.
Watch some clips from Nowhere Special here: