MIA MADRE || 2015, Italy / France / Germany || Drama || Directed by – Nanni Moretti / Written by – Nanni Moretti, Valia Santella, Gaia Manzini, Chiara Valerio, Francesco Piccolo / Produced by – Rémi Burah, Jean Labadie, Nanni Moretti, Domenico Procacci, Olivier Pére / Cinematography by – Arnaldo Catinari / Editing by – Clelio Benevento / Production design by – Paola Bizzarri / Starring – Margerita Buy, John Turturro, Nanni Moretti / Running time: 106 mins.
Nanni Moretti’s My Mother is neither his most provocative nor his most ambitious work to date, but it is near damn perfect. It is the story of two siblings as they face mortality in taking care of their hospitalised elderly mother, in her dying days. Because death is a natural part of life, and life goes on, Margherita, the female filmmaker whose life we follow, carries on with her work on set filming her new project with a strong proletariat statement, takes care of her daughter who is flunking latin and goes through other simple everyday struggles.
Margherita Buy delivers a true powerhouse performance in this central role, the type of performance that was required. She is an imposing presence on the screen, sensible to both her character’s strengths and vulnerabilities. She carries a large weight of the film on her shoulders, by even orchestrating the tone changes in individual sequences through sudden absent minded blank stares, tired eyes and concerned looks even in the most outrageous of situations – such as her interactions with her self obsessed American leading actor played by an histrionic John Turturro, from whom most of the film’s hilarity comes from. Moretti himself plays a small role as the other sibling, who is on the verge of making a drastic lifestyle change, starting from his career path.
Margherita Buy is the extension of a very complete character examination, which Nanni Moretti presents in great detail. Aside from it being a most excellent example of female representation in cinema, it is whole because it also allows us a direct peak inside her mind aside from focusing on every aspect of her life – not only her work life and family life, but also her love life and sex life – even her dreams, through sequences of understated poetry.
The devil in this case is in the detail. For instance, in one of the sequences, she wakes up one night from one of her nightmares involving her mother to find her house is flooded. In another instance, she aims to fight a sudden sadness by calling up the man whom she recently broke up with, and the reason we can very well assume, is more sexual than romantic, therefore shamelessly selfish. She is not perfect, but she is very real real.
Overall, the film doesn’t have the tension or urgency of The Son’s Room, despite dealing with the theme of death. It is far more introspective and meditative, but the overall impression is that the send off given to her mother is as peaceful and happy as they come. Nevertheless, My Mother takes particular care in representing the delicate situation by remaining true to the natural flow of everyday life, and widely avoiding overstated melodrama. On top of this, it is represented by Moretti’s usual characteristic filmmaking language, that often abruptly sees a stark alternation of funny sequences with deeply dramatic ones. Because, after all, as it’s well documented, the revered filmmaker absolutely hates rhetoric. – 4/5