Quantcast

Film review: 'Vitus' is smart and pleasing

Published: Friday, Aug. 10 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

VITUS — *** — Teo Gheorghiu, Julika Jenkins, Urs Jucker; in German, with English subtitles; rated PG (profanity)

The title character of "Vitus" is a talented youngster who may be a little too smart for his own good.

The same thing could be said of this Swiss drama.

Whereas a film like the recent "Joshua" takes a similar premise and turns it into a psychological thriller/horror movie, this one takes a less-sensationalistic route.

Yet if anything, this is the smarter of the two movies. And while the slower pacing and more character-driven story mean it may test the patience of some, it's also the more appealing and crowd-pleasing film.

The movie centers on Vitus von Holzen, played by Swiss newcomer Teo Gheorghiu. Vitus is well ahead of his peers on the learning curve and already shows considerable talent on the piano.

In fact, his mother, Helen (Julika Jenkins), practically has his life and career planned out before the boy even reaches his teens.

However, as much as Vitus enjoys piano practice — private practices, not public performances — he wants nothing more than to be a "normal" youngster. But that may be out of his hands.

There's certainly an argument to be made that the mother character is rather unsympathetic, and that the boy's often-delinquent father (played by Urs Jucker) isn't much better.

But co-screenwriter/director Fredi M. Murer hits the mark in the portrayal of the younger characters. As for the film's fairy tale-like ending, it may seem a little quaint, but it's nice to see a movie that ends on a warmer, happier note than many others.

Also, both Gheorghiu and fellow newcomer Fabrizio Borsani give surprisingly natural performances (Borsani plays the 6-year-old version of Vitus). And veteran actor Bruno Ganz ("Downfall," "Wings of Desire") is terrific — as usual — playing the boy's more understanding grandfather. As the film goes along, you want to see even more of him.

"Vitus" is rated PG for scattered profanity, most of it mild, other mildly suggestive language, implied violence (a violent fall) and underage drinking. Running time: 117 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com