I am a bit of a “fast out of the gate” type gal, meaning that if a movie doesn’t engage me within the first few minutes, it never really does. But Italian director Nanni Moretti‘s latest film, My Mother (Mia Madre), surprised me. It started off slow but as it went along, more and more pieces of dialogue began to resonate with me; and familiar emotions began to well up. Soon, I was totally absorbed in it.
Mia Madre is the story of Margherita, a middle-aged Italian woman juggling her job as a film director with raising a teenage daughter and caring for her sick and hospitalized mother. If you are a part of the “sandwich generation”, this will sound all too familiar to you. But even if you’re not, there are scenes throughout this film that you will relate to. Who doesn’t know the difficulty of trying to do everything; be everywhere; and feeling that you haven’t really succeeded at anything; or what it’s like to explode in anger and frustration at a loved one and then to immediately feel so very guilty about it. And how about when a parent dies and there is the dawning realization that they, the parent, possessed so much more than was apparent from their child’s point of view. Mia Madre and its star, Margherita Buy, beautifully capture all of these feelings and more.
I also loved John Turturro in this film. Once again, he has proved that he is a woefully underrated talent. [If you don’t believe me, check him out in his own film, Fading Gigolo].
His character in this film is Barry, the American “star”, who is a bit of a buffoon, drinks too much, and can’t remember his lines. Turturro is masterful here, alternating between funny, ridiculous, charming, annoying, and endearing –in both English and Italian. My favorite scene is his on-set birthday celebration, where he dances with the wardrobe lady. Part John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, part Elaine Benes in Seinfeld, he manages to be both hilarious and sexy at the same time.
And, as Margherita’s brother, director Nanni Moretti is “fantastico”!! Stoic, all-knowing, and a calming presence, he gives the film its balance and center. Maybe it’s because the film is very personal for him; in fact it’s semi-autobiographical. His own mother taught school for 33 years; and at least one person per week mentioned to him that she had been their teacher. But, as Moretti admitted, he never had that kind of relationship with any of his professors.
He also confessed that after his mother’s death, he had the feeling that something very important about her as a person had escaped him entirely; something essential.
Mia Madre was the official selection at both the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival in 2015. It was also the winner of the Ecumenical Jury Prize at Cannes in 2015. But my favorite “nod” was its nomination for Best Foreign Film, AARP Movies for Grown Ups Awards. As one of those grown ups, I couldn’t agree more.
Watch the official trailer of My Mother: