Mia Madre (4 stars)

Mia Madre

Absorbing melodrama from Nanni Moretti, featuring a scene-stealing John Turturro

Italian director Nanni Moretti is a past master at sensitively mapping the heartbreak of personal tragedy. His Palme d’Or winner The Son’s Room captured a family’s guilt and grief following the death of a beloved son. The death of Moretti’s mother during the filming of We Have a Pope is the direct inspiration for Mia Madre but this understated, reflective melodrama is less about loss and more about an artist struggling to reconcile the demands of life and art, reality and make-believe.

The Moretti-inspired character is Margherita (Margherita Buy), an earnest, self-absorbed film director trying to cope with a crumbling private life, and her dying mother. Her current production tells of factory workers uniting against economic hardship and foreign ownership. It is ‘full of energy and hope’ she tells her mother Ada (Giulia Lazzarini), who seems less than convinced. Moretti takes some good-natured pot-shots at his reputation as Margherita proceeds in a mist of exasperation and inspiration, constantly telling her bewildered actors to play their roles as if standing to one side of the character.

Moretti co-stars as Margherita’s dutiful brother Giovanni and the film offers a thoughtful study of family dynamics in the face of looming tragedy. It is a subtle exploration of some complex emotions, as the process of filming becomes an escape and refuge for Margherita from a reality she would rather avoid. If it sounds a bit glum then Moretti provides extravagant comic relief in the shape of John Turturro’s larger-than-life American actor Barry Huggins, who arrives to join the film. Insecure, conceited, disarmingly charming and full of tall tales, Turturro is an exuberant, scene-stealing hoot, adding fireworks to the quiet colours of this absorbing, affecting take on the many burdens of being human.

Selected release from Fri 25 Sep.

Mia Madre

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • 25 / 09 / 2015
  • 1h 46min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Nanni Moretti
  • Cast: Margherita Buy, John Turturro, Giulia Lazzarini

Margherita (Buy) is an earnest, self-absorbed film director trying to make a movie about factory workers bonding together while coping with her sceptical, ailing mother (Lazzarini). Understated, thoughtful melodrama with extravagant comic relief in the shape of Turturro's scene-stealing turn as Barry, a conceited but…