Film Review: Mia Madre

Mia Madre
Directed by Nanni Moretti

Mia Madre is the latest film by acclaimed Italian director Nanni Moretti.  The film depicts Margherita, an impatient and self-centred director, working on her latest film while going through an existential crisis.  She is faced with the emotional drain of a terminally ill mother, and the everyday pressures of managing work, her daughter and a broken relationship.  She seems unable to separate her worlds and they end up clashing in exhausting and emotional ways.

In typical Moretti fashion the film gives a neorealist interpretation of emotional life experiences, with Mia Madre perhaps reflecting the death of his own mother during the shooting of his previous film.  He makes use of humour throughout, with some of the most emotionally distressing scenes having a comic undertone.  Much of the film’s humour comes from English-speaking Italian-American Barry Huggins, the hilarious idiot and protagonist of Margherita’s film.  While he is a source of comedy, he is also shown as a large source of Margherita’s stress and anxiety, which makes for distressing viewing at times.

Dark tones and slow, deep classical music contrast the vibrant colours and chirpy English pop soundtrack to symbolise the jumping between reality, a memory or a dream, all of which exist to develop Margherita’s character and her dealing with the decline of her mother’s health.  Extreme close-ups demonstrating the fatigue and emotional distress of characters are contrasted with long shots, at times making the viewer anxious at being unable to process and contextualise their own similar experiences.

The film ends suddenly, typical of Moretti, without giving the audience time to process the emotional journey undertaken.  Mia Madre is a powerful and unconventional approach to something everyone will experience in their lifetime.

Words by Daniel Zander

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