Director Margherita (Margherita Buy) is working on her latest cinematic project. The film features American actor Barry Huggins (John Turturro) whose arrival brings quite a bit of excitement to the shoot. As if it wasn’t stressful enough without that. At the same time, Margherita’s mother Ada (Giulia Lazaarini) is continuously doing worse. Margherita and her brother Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) have to face the fact that she probably won’t live much longer.
Mia madre is a film where nothing much happens. At times that does become a little exhausting, but most of the time, I very much enjoyed the film and myself.
Moretti’s mother died not long before he made this film and being a filmmaker and one of the actors in the film, it would have been easy to make Mia madre all about him. But Moretti chose a different route, taking very much the back seat as Giovanni. Instead the film focuses on Margherita which is not only great because it makes the film more about its theme than about its maker and because it pushes the focus on a female director, something we see too little off anyway.
Margherita Buy plays the role with verve and a lot of sensibility. She’s in turns funny and emotional, able to transition between the two as the film transitions with apparent ease from the touching, heart-breaking story of a dying mother to a comically catastrophic film shoot. Whenever Buy faces off with Turturro, I couldn’t help but laugh. Plus, Turturro’s dancing was pretty amazing.
Nevertheless Mia madre didn’t manage to really blow me away. Maybe the pacing was too slow, maybe it was that there juxt wasn’t a lot happening. Maybe I was just too tired. But about halfway through the film, I noticed myself becoming impatient and bored. I wanted the story to move more quickly but it never did.
In the end, although the film’s second half did still have its moments, the film just couldn’t carry the narrative tension and I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t be thinking about it for very long afterwards.