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Uberto Pasolini, James Norton, ‘Nowhere Special’

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Uberto Pasolini, who wrote and directed the James Norton-starring Nowhere Special that opened this weekend, says, rightfully, the film’s power emanates from the tangible bond you feel between father and son. Norton – the BAFTA-nominated British actor (Bob Marley: One Love, Little Women, Happy Valley) – is John a 35-year old window washer and single father to four-year old Michael (BIFA-nominated Daniel Lamot). John has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and is on a quest to place his son in a loving home.  

Norton “understood that the film lived or died — would have lived or died — on the relationship and on the connection between the two. And so he came over to Belfast before we started shooting and spent an enormous amount of time with the family, with the boy himself. Sitting down on the floor of Daniel’s room and playing with his toys and going out for chicken nuggets, for ice cream, and doing all that kind of thing before, but also during, the shoot. And they really developed a close friendship and a real affection. Which is why, I think, when you look at the film, what you see is real. It’s real affection. It’s not acting. Nobody’s acting. Neither James nor Daniel,” Pasolini tells Deadline.

There’s been speculation that Norton ha been in the mix as the next James Bond. “And why not?” Pasolini says. “I mean, he’s such a wonderful actor. He’s so talented. He’s got such a range — going from being a working class English man, to a working class criminal, to a loving dad in Belfast. He certainly could do it.”

The helmer sees Nowhere Special as a love story. “That’s the way I talk about … I think of it as a very low key very, very quiet portrait of a few weeks of lives of these two people. There isn’t a beginning really, there isn’t really an end. We just watch them going through, as delicately as possible, a very dramatic situation.”

The film, by the producer of The Full Monty and director of Still Life, premiered at Venice in 2020. It’s scored a notable 100% with critics sits at 94% with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. See Deadline review. The U.S. debut was delayed first by Covid, then by Hollywood strikes. It saw $15k from four theaters, including solid numbers from two NYC runsm helped by a Critics Pick from the New York Times. CMG is planning a limited rollout.

Pasolini said the film was based on a newspaper article he read in a British daily about a young father spent the last months of his life searching for new family for his boy. “I talked to the social service office that dealt with the case. And they couldn’t tell me anything more, minimal information. And so I went off for months and months of interviewing, talking to people who are working in the adoption sector in the UK, and people who have adopted, people who were hoping to adopt, wonderful people who help children face these kinds of situations, bereavement situations. And then a lot of those encounters ended up in the film.”

He said for the role of Michael he wanted someone “completely new to any form of performance or acting. I didn’t want anybody who had even been in a school play.

His previous film Still Life starred Eddie Marsan as a mild-mannered civil employee who dedicates his life to tracking down the next-of-kin of and arranging funerals for his community’s unclaimed dead.

“When I made Still Life, loneliness was a big, big issue for me, because I had just divorced. And so the children were spending some time with the mother sometimes with me. So for the first time in, I don’t know, 20 years maybe, I was going back to our home, which was empty, of noise of smells of light of life. And that loneliness made this encounter with somebody who deals with the issue of loneliness more dramatic. And with this one (Nowhere Special), I read the article and I just thought, “Do you know your children well enough to make this kind of decision? How do you make this kind of decision? How can you gamble on your child’s future?… It was personal because the journey of parenthood is very much part of the journey of the film. But fortunately, I haven’t been in that situation.”

Pasolini is based in London but has been spending time in his native Italy finishing up his latest film The Return, a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche.

It’s been a complicated few weeks for indies.

Other limited openings this week include Humane from IFC Films – Caitlin Cronenberg’s directorial debut, sci-fi environmental mystery thriller — which grossed $25k on 56 screens. The distributor’s Late Night With The Devil is still going, up to $9.85 million.)

Sony Pictures Classics’ We Grown Now grossed $126k on 340 screens in a week two expansion (from 9). SPC’s Wicked Little Letters passed $4 million on 250 screens in week 5.)

Bleecker Street’s Sasquatch Sunset is pushing $98k on 562 in its week three at 562 theaters.

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