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A dying father looks for the perfect family to adopt his son in 'Nowhere Special'

Daniel Lamont, left, and James Norton in <em>Nowhere Special.</em>
Peter Marley
Cohen Media Group
Daniel Lamont, left, and James Norton in Nowhere Special.

Updated April 30, 2024 at 11:01 AM ET

British actor James Norton stars in the BBC police procedural seriesHappy Valley. And he's also on many a shortlist to be the next James Bond. But his new father-son film, Nowhere Special, finds him in a gentler, more vulnerable place.

He plays John, a window washer in Belfast, who goes about his trade so unobtrusively that you'd never notice him if the camera weren't turned his way.

John has just a few months to live, a fact made doubly challenging because he has a 4-year-old son, Michael.

Michael's mother abandoned them shortly after he was born, and with no other family members, John now has the task, in tandem with a social services agency, of finding his child a new family ... and he's full of doubts.

"I always thought that I knew him," John confesses haltingly to a sympathetic social worker. "I mean, I do, I do. You know, he's my son. But do I know him, really know him, you know, enough for this?"

The social services team has lists of folks who are eager to adopt — a postman and his wife who've adopted before, a chilly, entirely transactional household that feels wholly wrong, a wealthy couple who could offer Michael things John couldn't and others. A social worker accompanies John as he and Michael visit them on weekends. All while James Norton's quietly devastated John is trying to figure out what he can possibly say to Michael as every moment grows more precious.

"Would you like to live somewhere else?" John asks Michael as they stand on a highway overpass, watching cars zoom off to points unknown. "A different town? A different home?"

Michael considers for a moment, then looks up at his father and says, "I like home."

Played by a doe-eyed Daniel Lamont, Michael seems to sense that something's amiss, and heartbreakingly, his instinct is always to reassure and comfort — using his own blanket to cover daddy when he's resting on the couch ... and turning pages at storytime.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.

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