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At the beach with his playboy brother (Alessandro Gassman), Pietro (Nanni Moretti) rescues a woman (Isabella Ferrari) from drowning, only to return home to find his wife has died in a freak accident, leaving him to care for their 10 year old Claudia (Blu Di Martino) - whose seeming acceptance of her loss confounds Pietro. He spends his days on a park bench outside her school, waiting to take her home, sometimes sitting in his car or in a nearby restaurant.

Review by Louise Keller:
Quiet Chaos is an apt description for the emotional state of Nanni Moretti's grieving widower Pietro, in a film whose central theme is grief, but that plays out with a mix of humour and acceptance. There are some parallels with Moretti's acclaimed The Son's Room, although this adaptation of Sandro Veronesi's novel (by Moretti) has a lighter touch as it deals with the complex issues of emotional loss. There's a controversial steamy sex scene too between Moretti and Isabella Ferrari, whose characters had previously met in intimate, albeit totally different circumstances at the very beginning of the film. Ferrari's Eleonora is the woman whose life Pietro saves at the beach and their orgasmic encounter epitomises the essence of letting go, a feat with which Pietro has been struggling, since the sudden death of his wife.

Most of the film takes place outside the school of Pietro's 10 year old daughter Claudia (Blu Yoshimi), where the bereaved father plants himself when he takes her to school each day. It happens naturally when Pietro reassures Claudia after her mother's funeral and as he sits on the bench outside the school, or in his car on a wet day, he becomes familiar with the regulars in the street. There are unspoken dialogues with the pretty girl walking the big dog, the local restaurateur and the mother with the disabled son who he amuses by remotely making his car lights flash. It also becomes an unexpected meeting place with his business colleagues as the company reels from back-stabbing in the midst of a merger. (Roman Polanski makes a surprising appearance in a cameo)

Moretti's imposing frame and presence form the heart of this unexpected tale about love, relationships and loss. Alessandro Gassman as his younger funky brother Carlo steals many scenes such as the one in which he is smoking opium. Antonio Luigi Grimaldi elicits great performances from all his cast, including Yoshimi, who delivers a warm and credible performance as the little girl who learns at school that some things are reversible and ultimately allows her father to resume his life. It's a thoughtful film with themes that linger.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Nanni Moretti is practiced in grief as a subject for cinema; note his acclaimed heartbreaker film, The Son's Room. Here, he and his co-writers adapt a novel about the complex but deeply buried aftermath of a wife and mother. The effect of the tragic death is compounded by its timing: just as Pietro (Nanni Moretti) is saving a woman's life at the beach, his wife has a fatal accident. While this timing invites all kinds of fatalistic (not to mention spiritual) connections, the film lets us decide what if anything to make of the coincidence. Perhaps it's just that; life is sometimes meaningless bad luck. The banality of her death is somehow highlighted by the pieces of melon that are found around her body.

Director Antonello Grimaldi gets marvellous performances from his entire cast, including young Blu Di Martino as Claudia, the 10 year old whose ability to seemingly absorb the grief gets everyone nervous. Both Nanni Moretti and Alessandro Gassman as his brother deliver rounded, engaging and satisfying characters, whose relationship is a crucial part of the film's texture. Pietro feels no grief that he can identify, but that doesn't mean he isn't grieving; the screenplay subtly explores how Pietro's response is unique to him. In that sense it's like a psychological study, but performed with grace and humanity.

The business from which Pietro absents himself during this time continues to knock on his door, as a big merger is looming that will affect his professional future - and income. This repeatedly pushes Pietro to confront the reality of life's continuing demands; fate, life, nature, the universe, never takes time off, indeed, it seems to accelerate its imperatives at times of stress.

Another strand in the story, the circumstances of the woman whose life he saves, makes an unexpected and raunchy intrusion towards the end of the film, and while it has a dramatic purpose, it is inserted so simplistically it ends up seeming gratuitous - which isn't intended. It's become a talking point for its steamy content, but just as importantly it demonstrates how well cinema can reveal emotions as they develop, from moment to moment.

Philip French, The Observer.

Nanni Moretti usually stars in angrily playful films, written and directed by himself, that look at the Italian political scene from a sceptical left-wing point of view. Seven years ago, however, he set aside the public aspect of his work and deservedly won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for The Son's Room, playing a psychoanalyst, head of a middle-class family in Ancona, trying to cope with the death of a beloved teenage son.

Now in Quiet Chaos, under the direction of Antonello Grimaldi, he plays a similar character grieving for his wife in an adaptation of Sandro Veronesi's bestselling novel. Whereas the son dies halfway through the earlier film, in Quiet Chaos, the 43-year-old Pietro's wife is seen only after her death, having collapsed in the garden of the family's seaside villa. Her husband and his brother discover her body when returning from the beach where, with supreme irony, they've saved the lives of two drowning women, only to have their heroic deeds ignored.

Pietro is left to care for a 10-year-old daughter, Claudia, and after taking her to her exclusive school for the first day of the autumn term, he decides to remain protectively in an adjoining park rather than return to his job as a senior executive with an international film company. He keeps up this absence for the rest of the year, as he attempts to understand his feelings and remain outside a bitter conflict within his firm about a merger.

This being a neatly tailored study of what might be called designer-grief, his self-indulgent actions not merely go uncriticised but attract the respect of his troubled colleagues who one by one come to consult him in the park.

Meanwhile, he becomes a fixture of the local scene. He waves daily to a cheerful Down's syndrome child and to a lovely young girl walking a St Bernard, becomes a respected habitue of the park's cafe, is asked in for lunch by a local widower, has an intimate conversation with his brother and meets other parents and his neurotic sister-in-law (Valeria Golino).

The climactic visitors are the charismatic Jewish boss of a German company involved in the merger (this gets a gasp from the audience as it's a cameo by Roman Polanski) and the rich woman whose life he saved, an encounter that leads to some graphic sex.

While these troubled folk come to consult Pietro as if he were a sage dispensing advice from a cave in the Himalayas, the 10-year-old Claudia, a preternaturally articulate and wise child, is being taught by an adoring teacher about palindromes and the difference between reversible and irreversible. At the end, she puts Dad on the road to acceptance and recovery. I enjoyed this movie, partly because of the lovely autumnal ambience and Moretti's easy charm. But during all the fancy emblematic talk about palindromes, the word 'glib' came to mind which, if read backwards, is almost 'bilge', which is what I ended up thinking about Quiet Chaos

Source: © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

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