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  • TBC
  • Drama
  • 2006
  • 108 mins




Actor Kim Rossi Stuart also directs for the first time in this Italian drama of a family repeatedly broken


In an imperfect world, compromise can often produce the happiest results. Kim Rossi Stuart did not want to star in Libero. Although he enjoys a distinguished reputation as an actor, including key roles in Michelangelo Antonioni and Wim Wenders' Beyond The Clouds (1995), Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio (2002) and Michele Placido's Romanzo Criminale (2005), he decided to concentrate all his efforts on the technical aspects of his directorial debut, and to leave the acting to others.

Then, just two weeks before filming was scheduled to begin, the lead actor pulled out of the production without warning, and Rossi Stuart was forced to take on the part himself. It may have been just a flexible response to accidental circumstances, but now it is impossible to imagine the film without him in it.

Rossi Stuart plays Renato Benetti, a freelance steadicam operator struggling to keep his family together. Loving but fiercely strict - and with an explosive temper - he is both best friend and worst enemy not only to his shy pre-pubescent son Tommi (Morace) and riotously adolescent daughter Viola (Nobili), but also to himself.

If the many tensions - economic, emotional and sexual - in this fragile household are intimately connected with the absence of the children's flighty, irresponsible mother Stefania (Bobulova), then the optimism and happiness that her unexpected return brings prove to be illusory. Inevitably, she will soon leave again and as the Benettis slowly fall apart, Tommi - still a child but no more childish than those around him - begins to insinuate himself into the richer, more stable family living in the apartment downstairs. Their offer to take him along on a holiday trip confronts Tommi with the most adult of decisions.

"Same story every morning," complains Renato as he tries to get his son out of bed for school. "Same story every year," Renato will say later when he learns that there are additional expenses for the swimming lessons that he forces upon Tommi - whereas Tommi himself would rather be playing football as a midfielder or even a sweeper ('libero' in Italian). Renato's resigned formulations are telling - for Libero is less a plot-driven drama than a series of snapshots of a family trapped in an endlessly repeating cycle of dysfunction.

Stefania promised to change but left anyway, and will no doubt one day return (and leave) all over again. Renato constantly oscillates between headstrong hope and enraged despair, but has "always managed to bounce back". So even if Libero ends with a crisis overcome, the motif of repetition that dominates the film prevents the easy comfort of a 'happy ending'. In this film, as in real life, families endure not because they are perfect, but because they keep looking for (and sometimes even finding) ways to leap over the gaping cracks in their internal dynamics.

Libero is a tale of adult breakdown told through the eyes of young Tommi, even as his own behaviour and character is profoundly affected by what he witnesses. It is like Noah Baumbach's The Squid And The Whale (2005), but without resorting to the luxury of that film's sardonic wit to leaven the proceedings.

Beautifully acted and convincing from start to finish, Libero is a difficult and often painful film - but also a richly rewarding one, allowing us to celebrate the loving accommodation that its flawed father and son manage to reach with each other. Like Tommi on one of his regular trips to the edge of his apartment building's rooftop, we are left poised between the exhilarating thrill of what we can see and our awareness of its sheer precariousness.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Roberta Lena, Alessandro Morace, Francesco Benedetto, Barbora Bobulova, Kim Rossi Stuart, Sebastiano Tiraboschi, Roberta Paladini, Pietro De Silva, Stefano Busirivici, Marta Nobili
  • Director: Kim Rossi Stuart
  • Screen Writer: Kim Rossi Stuart, Francesco Giammusso, Linda Ferri, Federico Starnone
  • Producer: Giorgio Magliulo, Andrea Costantini, Carlo Degli Esposti
  • Photographer: Stefano Falivene
  • Composer: Banda Osiris

In a nutshell

Kim Rossi Stuart's directorial debut exposes the cracks in a family with edgy incisiveness.

by Anton Bitel

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