As a viewer, you glide slowly and calmly into John’s everyday life, a bit as if there was nothing special to tell, as if your gaze was just caught on him while you wait on a street corner in a small Northern Irish town. So this serious young man with a tattooed bird silhouette on his neck drives up in his station wagon and heaves the folding ladder from the roof. James Norton as John covers up his dazzling looks with raw truthfulness and restraint. He works as a window cleaner, and while he works the panes with a rag and glass cleaner, his gaze falls inside the apartments and offices.
You can feel a faint melancholy, that touch of pain with which people look through glass panes at cozy family idylls and warm lights from which they are excluded – especially in Christmas films. Later you see the single father with his little son, the two form a nice team, when John cleans his car, Michael also fervently foams his plastic truck, in the supermarket they turn the shopping cart into a carousel, and when the father is reading aloud in bed “page” says, his son turns the page. Slowly the awareness creeps in for the endangerment of this small family unit, the information that John does not have much longer to live. Not as aggressively as usual in films about farewells and deadly diseases – the special quality of “Nowhere Special” is that he doesn’t peddle his drama at all while the father creates a kind of protective cocoon around his son, around the last Days and weeks of a sheltered childhood.
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A father-son drama devoid of sentimentality? This works out
Even as a producer of films such as “Kleine Gangster große Kohl” and “Ganz oder nicht”, Uberto Pasolini – who has cinema in his genes, though not because of a relationship with Pier Paolo of the same name, but as the nephew of Luchino Visconti – a feeling for the worries and struggles of the little man, which can be alleviated a little with humor and humanity. Despite his Italian citizenship, he has worked in British cinema for decades, in English. In his second directorial work “Mr. May and the Whispers of Eternity” he also developed a gentle story about dying. Eddie Marsan played a social worker who put a lot of effort and persistence in tracking down the bereaved of those who had died alone.
“Nowhere Special” is Uberto Pasolini’s third film as a director. In it he succeeds in narrating a drama in a very intimate and touching way, but completely devoid of sentimentality. At some point little Michael notices strange things that happen around him, all the afternoon and early evening visits to strangers, and the over-friendly ingratiation with which complete strangers court his favor. While John’s strength is dwindling, he has to make preparations for the time when he can no longer be there for his son, to find a family to take him in. It’s the little moments that bring tears to your eyes: a car mechanic who only bills for the spare parts, a social worker who is a little more committed than she ought to, a four-year-old who gives his father the 35. Candle for the chocolate cake is enough that he will no longer need.
Nowhere Special, GB, Italy, Romania 2020 – Written and directed by Uberto Pasolini. Camera: Marius Panduru. Starring: James Norton, Daniel Lamont. Rental: Piffl, 96 minutes. Theatrical release: October 7th, 2021