MY MOTHER (MIA MADRE) (Italy | France/TBC/106mins)
Directed by Nanni Moretti. Starring Margherita Buy, John Turturro, Nanni Moretti, Giulia Lazzarini, Beatrice Mancini.
THE PLOT: Margherita (Margherita Buy), a movie director, is trying to juggle work and her mother being bed bound in hospital. She is just about managing to cope when the star of her movie Barry Huggins (John Turturro) arrives on set, and her ordered world comes crashing down.
THE VERDICT: It is clear that former Cannes Jury President Nanni Moretti’s latest film is an incredibly personal one, but instead of doing what we might expect, and casying himself in the lead role, he has changed the role to a female part, allowing the film to speak for itself.
Margherita Buy is fantastic in the lead role, easily treading the tightrope between grief and pleasure, work and life, death and carrying on. We see the film through her eyes, and although her supporting cast are incredibly strong, it is with Margherita that the film lives and dies. John Turturro is a ball of arrogance, noise and pretentiousness as Barry, and bring some much needed levity to the film through his fictional stories, his demands and the jokes he tells that never land. Of course, he is a source of constant frustration for Margherita, but he embraces the role, speaks Italian well and generally throws the fact that life does, and must, go on into sharp relief. Giulia Lazzarini is heartbreaking as Margherita’s ailing mother, Moretti himself turns up as Margherita’s brother, and Beatrice Mancini plays Margherita’s daughter Livia.
Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo and Valia Santella’s screenplay carefully balances grief and ridiculous humour in the film, making the film feel almost painfully honest at times; there is no tragedy without joy, and there is no joy without sadness, and the two are wonderfully tangled together in the film. Without Turturro’s character, the film would fall along the lines of Amour; a woman coming to terms with the slow decline of her mother, and desperately trying to hold her life together. While the film certainly still is this, it is also screamingly funny, often seconds after a moment of true grief.
As director, Moretti has created a film that feels honest, painful and beautiful, while capturing the horrible impatience, struggle and despair that comes when life quickly spirals out of our control. The film is well paced and, although each of the actors does a fine job, this is really Buy, Turturro and Lazzarini’s film, with the latter’s final line of the film one of joy and utter heartbreak.
In all, MY MOTHER is a funny, tragic and often heartbreaking film that feels personal and honest. Buy and Turturro shine, and although there were plenty of tears shed at this morning’s screening at Cannes, there were also gales of laughter, proving that Moretti has made a wonderfully balanced film, a film that is surely a return to form for the director.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Cannes Review - My Mother (Mia Madre)
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0Personal and honest
  • filmbuff2011

    Receiving 8 minutes of standing ovations at Cannes earlier this year, Mia Madre is a very personal film from acclaimed Italian director Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room). Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a film director who is facing a challenging period in her life. She’s trying to making a political film about workers staging protests at management’s decision to downsize and cut a third of the workforce. Her brother Giovanni (Moretti) supports her, but realises that she has too much on her plate. She also has to deal with her ill and vulnerable mother Livia (Beatrice Mancini), who is in hospital and prone to wandering off by herself. To top all that off, she also has to deal with Italian-American actor Barry (John Turturro) who has just arrived to start work on the set. With an ego bigger than Rome, Barry believes that everything is about him. He even claims to have worked with the peerless Stanley Kubrick and makes sure to remind everyone on set about this. He also forgets his lines and raises Margherita’s temperature to critical levels. Margherita is going into meltdown… Moretti is a keen observer of human nature. His script, co-written with 4 (!) other writers, makes the point that filmmakers are human too. At the end of the day, a director has to walk off the set and deal with her own real life and distinguish it from the make-believe. If a director is a leader, then she has to have control over her own life too. It’s well-acted by all concerned, with Buy the stand-out in an affecting and moving performance. Turturro has great fun with Barry, imbuing him with just about every bad trait of an egotistical actor (unlike the talented Turturro, of course). Actors, eh? The ending is a bit abrupt, but the story has almost reached a conclusion anyway. Moretti has a lovely way of making films about life that feel closer to reality than the film world. Mia Madre is a film that draws parallels with the film world, while also stretching beyond the screen for something more poignant and effective. Highly recommended. ****