Adults and children swap places in Libero, a forceful and moving coming-of-age drama from Italy. Actor Kim Rossi Stuart (best-known for his work in gangster epic Romanze Criminale) makes his directorial debut and stars as Renato, a freelance cameraman who's also father to 11-year-old Tommi (Alessandro Morace) and elder sister Viola (Marta Nobili). Abandoned by their sluttish mother (Barbora Bobulova), the kids are forced to grow up quickly as Renato struggles with the responsibility of being a single dad.
Any synopsis of Libero doesn't do the film itself justice. No hackneyed soap opera, it's a subtle and ferociously uncompromising drama about the emotional demands placed on this family, in particular young Tommi. He spends his free time on the roof of the apartment block where he lives, recklessly dangling himself several stories above the ground. Played with melancholy seriousness by Morace, he's both vulnerable and fiercely independent; when the children's unhinged mother unexpectedly returns home he's not fooled by her empty promises ("Anyway, she'll leave again").
"CAPTURES THE ANXIETIES OF CHILDHOOD"
Letting the drama gradually unfold, Rossi Stuart proves an adept helmer and captures the anxieties of childhood brilliantly. Both kids have been scarred by events: Viola is sexually forward (even with her own brother); Tommi has been forced to become a man too soon. Meanwhile their father seems set on reverting to childish ways. As Renato's freelance career falters and debts mount up, Rossi Stuart delivers a chilling performance of impotent rage, demolishing a wardrobe with his bare hands and lashing out at his kids. Mistakenly treating them as equals rather than his charges, Renato forces his children to choose whether or not to let their mother back into their lives. "I'm telling you this because you're big enough to understand," he explains to Tommi. The tragedy of Libero is that the little boy isn't and doesn't.
Libero is out in the UK on 25th January 2008.