Ivano De Matteo has become a sort of expert on the dynamics of families in crisis with films Gli Equilibristi (Balancing Act) with its broken family, La Bella Gente, a family with an identity crisis, and I Nostri Ragazzi (The Dinner), a family gone completely haywire. His newest film La Vita Possibile (A Possible Life) stars Margherita Buy as a mother on the run with her son, escaping a domestic violence situation in Rome.
De Matteo avoids the clichès of this sort of story, minimizing the actual violent scenes and the escape from the situation and focusing more on the aftermath as the abbreviated family unit trying to pick up the pieces. De Matteo gets really real here, and paints the portrait of what actually happens when a woman finds herself in this situation.
Anna (Margherita Buy) has no money and needs to get out of town quickly, so she looks up an old friend in Torino, Carla (Valeria Golino) and gets on the train with the clothes on their back and little else to find sanctuary in Carla’s cramped apartment. So, she’s not going to get knocked around anymore (that is, as long as her husband doesn’t find her), but the new problems that arise are endless. Her son Valerio (Andrea Pittorino) hates the idea of leaving his dad, his friends, and his bike, he hates Torino, his new school, and he even hates his mother on occasion. Ripped away from everything he knows to share a tiny bedroom with his mom at probably the worst age possible, 13, we feel for him, no doubt.
His mom is still pretty traumatized by the whole thing and isn’t helping much, and other than bringing him the occasional sweet treat on her way home from the job she finds cleaning offices, she has little left emotionally to give at this point. He needs counseling, friends, a room of his own. He needs a dad.
Help arrives from unlikely sources; a lonely young Russian prostitute and a disgraced soccer star play important roles in helping Valerio find his bearings, and even though living with Carla is physically uncomfortable, her kindness to him is importance for his recovery.
De Matteo is a master at delicately telling us stories that we are too squeamish to tell ourselves. He makes us look at things that make us uncomfortable, but ever so gently, so that we are filled with empathy instead of criticism.