Mia Madre (2015)

Cast includes: Margherita Buy (Il Caimano), John Turturro (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Giulia Lazzarina (Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy), Nanni Moretti (We Have a Pope)
Writer/Director: Nanni Moretti (We Have a Pope, The Son’s Room)
Genre: Drama (106 minutes) Italian with subtitles

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As protesters carry signs and shout slogans of “No Layoffs” and “Right to Work,” authorities are cracking down… beatings, fire hoses and arrests. The tense scene ends with, “Cut.” Margherita needs a firm hand to get this film made according to her vision because she gets plenty of pushback from opinionated crewmembers. As a director, she is known for taking on projects of social significance, and ultimately her decisions stand. After work, Margherita picks up food to take to her mother in the hospital. But Ada, her mother, isn’t interested in food… she wants to hear all about today’s shoot. When Giovanni arrives, he also brings food and Margherita can’t help but notice how her brother not only brings more appealing food, but he always has a way of lifting Ada’s spirits.

“Lighten up a little.” That’s the advice everyone seems to have for Margherita. We can see the stress in her home life and her relationship with her daughter. Everything in her life takes a back seat when she’s shooting a movie. Today, Margherita is going to the airport personally to pick up Barry Huggins, their American film star… he’s playing the central character in the movie. Things don’t get off to a promising start when he invites Margherita to dinner. She has too much to do tonight. “Eating alone is so sad,” he says. She reminds him that they have to get an early start and she needs her sleep. “Then sleep with me!” What must he be thinking! “I was just joking.” But was he? Anyway, Margherita doesn’t have the mental energy to deal with a difficult star… not with her mother in the hospital and the results of the CT scan not looking good. Tomorrow’s scene calls for champagne… not the real stuff… it’s fake for filming. “Fake, like my whole life,” says Barry.

As things play out, we see Margherita struggling to manage all the strands of her life… the strands that may be ending and the ones that should continue on. The film is likely to hit close to home for anyone who’s ever lost a loved one. At times like these, it’s important to keep one’s priorities in focus. But what are the priorities? When old friends want to reminisce with Ada, Ada isn’t interested. She wants to hear about Margherita’s day on the movie set. Writer/director Nanni Moretti made this film based on his own life, as a way of mentally processing the recent loss of his mother. Whether you feel this film is worthwhile is likely to depend on your own perspective and what kind of films you enjoy. The filming style and acting are excellent and quite naturalistic, and the story obviously comes from the heart. Along the way we get an interesting peek into the filmmaking process, which some might find interesting. On a film set, there can be an odd juxtaposition between reality and pretend-reality… and the director is the one who has to keep it all going. Margherita’s American actor can be a bit of a handful… “Take me back to reality”… but there are times in life when one has no choice but to let reality happen.

popcorn rating

2 popped kernels

A director juggles her film project with the loss of her mother

Popcorn Profile

Rated: R
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Sober
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Death of a mother
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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