Reality and Fake

This is my review of Mia Madre DVD.

In the course of shooting a Ken Loach-type film on fraught industrial relations in a factory, Margherita tries to make time for hospital visits to her mother, separation from a lover who seems reluctant to accept that their relationship is over, and a daughter who needs to resit her school exams. Unlike her brother Giovanni, played by the director Nanni Moretti, Margherita finds it hard to face up to the fact that her mother is dying, and is by turns impatient, frustrated by her sense of being unable to be any use as a carer, or hides behind assurances to her mother that there is nothing amiss. Yet in his quiet way, Giovanni may see his mother’s death as the cue for a major change in the course of his life. Nanni Moretti must have been inspired to direct this film by the recent death of his own mother, although this may have made him “too close” to the event to portray it with a sufficient sense of perspective.

Some viewers will be moved by the situation, and be brought to reflect on how they will deal with the inevitable death of a parent, or have already done so. However, for me the film was a set of disjointed scenes which did not coalesce into a whole which “worked”. I was unconvinced by the surrealistic episodes which I assume occurred in Margherita’s imagination.

The comedy supplied by Margherita’s nightmare of an Italian-American leading man Barry Huggins, demanding, narcissistic and maddening in his inability to remember lines, is a welcome antidote to the protracted, realistic but depressing bedside scenes. Yet the mixture of poignant loss and farce often appear incongruous. Margherita Buy seems too emotional and capricious to have made it as a director, and as she slips into what seems like a nervous breakdown, it is half-painful, half-amusing to see her unnecessarily large retinue tip-toe in the wake of her tantrums like clueless sheep, but where is the producer or worried financial backer who in the real world would step in and send her off on indefinite leave?

One of the strongest scenes for me is where rejected lover Vittorio blasts Margherita with a hard-hitting analysis of all her shortcomings.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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