In his first film since losing his own mother, director Nanni Moretti explores the psychological impact of the death of a parent. Following film director Margherita (Margherita Buy) as she struggles to accept the impending loss of her mother, Mia Madre is a subtle, intimate, but ultimately underwhelming existential drama.
The protagonist is in the middle of shooting her latest film – a socio-political piece depicting a group of factory workers taking industrial action against their belligerent new boss’s intended lay-offs. Margherita becomes increasingly overwhelmed as she tries to cope with the demands of both her personal and professional life, including a break-up with her actor boyfriend, a strained relationship with her teenage daughter and her refusal to come to terms with her mother’s prognosis. Her struggle is offset by the actions of her brother (played by Moretti himself) who has taken on the bulk of his mother’s care and embarked upon a leave of absence from work in order to deal with his grief.
Margherita’s life on set is complicated further by the arrival of her star, fading American-Italian actor Barry (John Turturro), who’s a breath of fresh air in an otherwise gloomy affair. Loud, arrogant and larger than life, Barry also brings an unexpected emotional depth when we learn of his problems with memory loss.
The narrative is an incoherent, meandering mix of dreams, hallucinations and memories, unsuccessfully attempting to reflect the blurring of reality and imagination at the heart of Margherita’s existential crisis. Whilst the cinematography is undeniably beautiful, Mia Madre feels lacking in its execution; beneath the moments of beauty and emotion we’re left with a slow burner, constantly fighting extinguishment beneath the weight of its own not-quite-realised ambition.
Mia Madre is released nationwide on 25th September 2015.
Watch the trailer for Mia Madre here: