A tender but often amusing Italian film, “Mia Madre,” shown at the 2015 New York Film Festival and now in release, has been superbly directed by Nanni Moretti, who also has a key role. The story involves a woman film director, her brother (Moretti), their ill mother and a difficult American actor.
Margherita, given a dynamic performance by Margherita Buy, is trying to get her passionately pro-labor film made. In addition to normal production challenges, she has to contend with an egocentric American actor, Barry Huggins, played to the hilt by John Turturro in a particularly colorful role. He is a royal pain, and Turturro makes the most of scene-stealing opportunities as an actor without the talent to match his ego and temper.
Meanwhile, Margherita has to care for her fatally ill mother, played by Giulia Lazzarini, and the crush of responsibilities is getting to her. Fortunately, she has a rock of a brother, and Moretti endows him with complexity in a performance that shows various aspects of his personality.
The strength of “Mia Madre” lies in its mix of an entertaining look at the process of creating a film with life’s problems and how they are dealt with. An interesting portrait of a brother-sister relationship also emerges along with the love for their mother and her fatalistic depiction. The intelligent, often moving screenplay has been written by Moretti in collaboration with Francesco Piccolo and Valia Santella.
The acting, main and supporting, is excellent, and as you might expect, there is plenty of Italian atmosphere to enjoy in addition to the emotional pull and the laughter in this exceptionally fine and rewarding film with an undertone of social consciousness in its view of labor’s battle with management as the subject of the film being made by Margherita. A Music Box Films release. Reviewed August 23, 2016.