‘Nowhere Special’ Review: Old Bonds, New Family

“Nowhere Special” is an unusual, and unusually understated, parental tear-jerker in which a father prepares for the loss of his young son. The son isn’t going anywhere. But the father, a single dad, is dying, of an unspecified disease, and he’s at first eager, then later a little desperate, to get his boy placed with the right adoptive family.

The picture was written and directed by Uberto Pasolini, the Italian-born filmmaker who was the producer of the 1997 crowd-pleaser “The Full Monty.” Although he shares a surname with the acclaimed director Pier Paolo Pasolini, Uberto is in fact a nephew of the neorealist cinema giant Luchino Visconti. Pasolini doesn’t seem directly influenced by his actual relative or his namesake. But his movie does have a style: slow, quiet, measured. It takes its time before bringing the emotional hammer down.

Set and shot in Northern Ireland, the film focuses on a window cleaner, John (James Norton), the loving father to a very cute but often sulky 4-year-old, Michael (Daniel Lamont). We never see John at a doctor’s office, but we get a look at his packed medicine cabinet and we see him getting more ashen as the picture goes on. One location he does spend a lot of time in is a child placement agency, whose staffers escort him to speak with approved-to-adopt candidates. There are childless couples, intimidatingly big families and single aspiring parents to consider. John resists putting a “memory box” together for his boy. “I don’t want him to understand death,” he says.

After being admonished by a snotty rich client because of slow work, John, taking the adage “you only live once” to heart, eggs the fellow’s house. It’s one of the few moments when the movie deigns to deliver a conventional satisfaction. But the mostly low-key mode of “Nowhere Special” is the right one. Norton is spectacular, but little Lamont delivers one of those uncanny performances that doesn’t seem like acting, and makes you feel for the kid almost as much as his onscreen parent does.

Nowhere Special
Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes. In theaters.

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