Mia Madre, 2015.
Directed by Nanni Moretti.
Starring Margherita Buy, John Turturro, Giulia Lazzarini, Nanni Moretti, Beatrice Mancini and Stefano Abbati.
Margherita, a director in the middle of an existential crisis, has to deal with the inevitable and still unacceptable loss of her mother.
Nanni Moretti, an Italian master at fusing emotionally engaging stories with a rich vein of comedy, has done it again. Mia Madre (My Mother) is a warm-hearted, touching and often hilarious personal account taking in as many sides of life as human existence is capable of dealing out.
Concentrating on Margherita’s (Buy) struggles to complete her high-minded social realist film about job losses, economic crises and factory closures, Mia Madre does a fantastic job of contrasting the movie world with real life family concerns.
Moretti does this by alternating between the occasionally farcical difficulties Marguerita faces on-set with the emotionally overpowering stress of her mother Ada’s (Guilia Lazzarini) faltering health in hospital. The arrival of the naive, playful and egotistical American actor Barry Huggins (John Turturro, wonderfully enjoying himself) adds a further complication to Margherita’s constant juggling of work problems and familial strains.
She is helped out by her brother Giovanni (Moretti, adding solid support as character and actor), who is able to cope with many of the demands of visiting their mother having taken leave off work for undisclosed reasons.
Both Margherita and Ada, a retired academic, have found a high level of success in their chosen careers – this contrasts with the manipulative and scheming Huggins, who although charming and intrinsically funny, is not all that he says he is.
Taking more of a back role in his portrayal of Giovanni, is interesting, for one gets the feeling that this is a deeply personal story for Moretti, and that in some respects he has put himself in the shoes of Margherita. This gender switch brings out another range of political and societal issues, with the context of gender equality touched upon subtly as a background piece.
Moretti is a film-maker who gets to the heart of terrifically complex ideas. All of his films show off a keen awareness of memorable ways to showcase comedy, tragedy and serious political points in expert style.
Out of all his films this rivals The Son’s Room for sheer emotional impact. Some may find it difficult to deal with the mixture of the slapstick scenes from Turturro’s character with the family agonies of losing a mother, but the integrity and honesty of the whole production is never in doubt.
The light and the dark, the amusing and the painful – after all, that is life. And Moretti has captured it (again) in all its magnificent, excruciating and testing detail. In short, it is a beautiful film. Go watch
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer