Review: Nowhere Special (2020)

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Nowhere Special (2020)

Directed by: Uberto Pasolini | 96 minutes | drama | Actors: James Norton, Daniel Lamont, Carol Moore, Valene Kane, Keith McErlean, Eileen O’Higgins, Laura Hughes, Éva Morris, Chris Corrigan, Siobhán McSweeney, Stella McCusker, Roisin Gallagher, Grace Hanna, Sean Sloan, Nigel O’Neill

Which actor will be the next James Bond? Since Daniel Craig announced that he will no longer take on the role of the legendary secret agent after ‘No Time to Die’ (2021), the rumor mill has been running overtime. Initially, Idris Elba was the leading candidate – which would have been a bold but fantastic choice, of course. But since he is already approaching fifty, he is actually too old by Bond standards. Another name that sings about emphatically is that of James Norton. In any case, the British actor is in the right age category with his almost 37 years; old enough to convincingly put down an experienced secret agent, but also young enough to last for years to come. An advantage, since the producers have indicated that they only want to work with an actor who wants to commit to the role for a longer period of time. Norton has so far made his name with roles in TV series such as the detectives ‘Happy Valley’ and ‘Grantchester’, the costume drama ‘War and Peace’ and the crime drama ‘McMafia’. His film record is somewhat more modest (which is not necessarily a disadvantage for a future James Bond), with the remakes of ‘Flatliners’ (2017) and ‘Little Women’ (2019) and ‘Mr. Jones’ (2019), a biographical thriller about the Holodomor, the horrific famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933 as the main feat of arms.

Norton once again puts itself in the spotlight with the modest, true drama ‘Nowhere Special’ (2020). The film was written, produced and directed by the Italian Uberto Pasolini – surprisingly not related to the controversial filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, but a cousin of the renowned Luchino Visconti – who we know as the producer of ‘The Full Monty’ (1997) and as director of ‘Still Life’ (2013). For ‘Nowhere Special’ he was inspired by a true story about a terminally ill father who went in search of a new family for his young son before his death. “Although the situation in which the characters find themselves is highly dramatized, I wanted to approach the story in a very subtle, discreet way and to stay far away from melodrama and sentimentality,” Pasolini confided to the press at the world premiere at the Covid International Film Festival, which was drastically scaled down due to covid. Venice 2020. The director’s biggest challenge was working with a very young child and creating a believable father-son relationship between lead actor James Norton and Daniel Lamont, who was only four years old at the time, who played his son. Fortunately, Daniel turned out to be a born actor, extremely alert and sensitive, and he was also fortunate enough to work alongside the talented and selfless James Norton.”

Norton is almost unrecognizable as the tattooed, tracksuits and sweatpants wearing John, a 35-year-old window cleaner from Belfast who has devoted his life completely to taking care of his four-year-old son Michael (Daniel Lamont). The boy’s mother suffocated him shortly after giving birth to him. They live a simple, uncluttered life together. Full of love and dedication we see him sifting through his son’s ball in search of possible lice, reading bedtime stories and pitting grapes for little Michael. Rough as his shell is, with all those tattoos, so white is his spunk. No wonder that it also hits us as viewers hard when we find out that John has a brain tumor and has to search diligently for a foster family that is warm and loving enough for his son. That could get very sentimental, but Pasolini keeps it understated and emphasizes small gestures and moments of love. The camera slides to their feet to show that they are in sync and linger on their matching baseball caps and the fact that they picked the same ice cream from the ice cream shop and then tucked into it at the same time. In short, real moments between a father and his son. Because they still warm the heart the most. Not to mention the heartbreaking scene with the birthday cake…

‘Nowhere Special’ is, as it were, a collection of those moments of tenderness, without feeling fragmented or unnecessarily sentimental. The film excels in small moments of intimacy between a father and his child. Woven through it are scenes of them visiting potential adoptive families for Michael. Precisely because as a viewer you have started to feel so much for John and his son so quickly, you also want to help determine which family the boy could best reach full maturity with (and you hear yourself shouting to the screen ‘No, send don’t take him to those bastards who want to put him in a boarding school!”). It is very clever how Pasolini manages to walk that thin line between vulnerable intimacy and empathy on the one hand and melodrama and sentimentality on the other without leaning to the wrong side. Thanks to the realistic, subdued tone and thanks to a great Norton, who makes the tragic fate of his character come in extra hard through his sober, quiet performance.

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