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Good Grief Hunting

Quiet Chaos (2008)

Chico De Luigi/IFC Films

Sandro Veronesi’s bestseller about a widower coming to terms with the accidental death of his wife serves as the basis for Antonello Grimaldi’s eponymous “Quiet Chaos.” But with Nanni Moretti scripting and starring, the film inevitably seems like an afterthought inspired by “The Son’s Room,” Mr. Moretti’s own much-lauded take on the grief process. The two films share thematic threads, but Mr. Grimaldi has extended every strand by a mile, including the tangential ones. Some manifestations of the mourning presented in “Quiet Chaos” do register as observant, while others strike as way off topic.

Mr. Moretti plays Pietro, a successful executive who learns of his wife’s death ironically after he saves two women from drowning. Surprisingly, Pietro spares himself the coulda-woulda-shoulda self-flagellation one might expect. To help his 10-year-old daughter Claudia (Blu Yoshimi) cope, Pietro promises to be readily accessible – literally. Each day he station-posts himself directly outside her school, so that she will always find him whenever she peeks out the window. He telecommutes from his car, and allots time for an assortment of characters such as a sister-in-law/mistress, a café owner, a dog walker, a kid with Down syndrome and a random stranger who lives in the neighborhood and feeds him homemade pasta.

If the film’s whimsical impulses don’t seem to trivialize its protagonist’s loss enough, “Quiet Chaos” goes completely off on a fanciful digression when Pietro decides to take an all-important meeting regarding a corporate merger (with Roman Polanski making a cameo no less) right in the park outside Claudia’s school. Indeed, the running subplot about the wheeling and dealing of multinational conglomerates seems completely out of place, especially when the film is supposedly about a man numbing himself to overcome the loss of a loved one. There are moments of truth in “Quiet Chaos,” such as when Pietro resorts to recreational drugs and rough sex, but those moments are far too few and much too far between.


Opens on June 26 in Manhattan.

Directed by Antonello Grimaldi; written by Nanni Moretti, Laura Paolucci and Francesco Piccolo; director of photography, Alessandro Pesci; edited by Angelo Nicolini; music by Paolo Buonvino; production designer, Giada Calabria; produced by Domenico Procacci; released by IFC Films. In Italian and French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Nanni Moretti (Pietro Paladini), Valeria Golino (Marta), Isabella Ferrari (Eleonora Simoncini), Alessandro Gassman (Carlo), Blu Yoshimi (Claudia), Hippolyte Girardot (Jean Claude), Charles Berling (Boesson) and Ester Cavallari (Lara).


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