'Nowhere Special' review: A dying father seeks an adoptive family for his son John (James Norton) is a young single dad who has just a few months to live and no family to turn to. So he goes out in search of the perfect family for his 4-year-old son.

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

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

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Daniel Lamont, left, and James Norton in Nowhere Special. Peter Marley/Cohen Media Group hide caption

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Peter Marley/Cohen Media Group

Daniel Lamont, left, and James Norton in Nowhere Special.

Peter Marley/Cohen Media Group

British actor James Norton stars in the BBC police procedural series Happy 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.

Writer/director Uberto Pasolini lets this play out without grandstanding or melodrama. The filmmaker doesn't embellish. We don't even hear what illness afflicts John. We just see things through his eyes — a window-washer's eyes. He's used to catching glimpses through the glass of worlds he'll never enter. But to have his son's future be like that? The ache is enormous, even as he finds the words Michael needs ... and a safe harbor ... just as the window for decision-making starts to close.