Mia Madre (My Mother) is an Italian language film and was a contender for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. Written, featuring and directed by prolific filmmaker Nanni Moretti, it’s a slice of life film, worlds apart from last week’s surreal outing, Tale of Tales.

It could so easily be another film with a male star, following a man’s descent into the dark depths of a mid-life crisis as he faces the twilight of his career and the imminent death of his dear mother.

Instead, the lead character is female (Margherita Buy), and she has a somewhat complicated relationship with her mother. We view things from Margherita’s perspective, through her daydreams, nightmares, and rather harsh way of viewing those around her. Perhaps I’m biased, but a female perspective was a more intriguing way of approaching this set of circumstances. Margherita is not perfect. In fact, her personality is at times ugly and raw.

Margherita is a successful film director at a possible turning point in her career; will her latest film turn out just like all the others or will she at last break her own brittle mould? While making the film, Margherita must try to cope with her grief over her mother’s mortality, failed relationships… and an idiot. Barry (John Turturro) is a famous American-Italian actor and the star of her latest film. He’s an imbecile in the true sense of the word: both idiotic and completely oblivious to that fact.

It doesn’t help matters that Margherita’s brother Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) is stable, strong and able to cope with their mother’s illness – or at least he appears to be. Not only is he able to comprehend the doctor’s diagnoses, but also he’s a great cook, and their mother Ada (Giulia Lazzarini) reaps the benefits.

Turturro steals the show, and it’s worth watching this film just to witness his performance as Barry – and for a very funny, deadpan dance scene. Barry’s biggest claim to fame is that he did a film with Stanley Kubrick. Only he was never in any of Kubrick’s films…

Mia Madre is brimming with heartfelt, understated performances from all involved, no doubt due in part to Moretti’s careful direction. The story moves along at its own, unhurried pace – so don’t go along expecting grand revelations and declarations of ‘amore’, as you’ll be disappointed. Buy’s portrayal of Margherita is sensitive, and subtly evolves over the course of the film. But how much Margherita actually changes, well, that’s up to the individual’s interpretation.

Mia Madre is my top pick of Lotterywest Festival Films so far this season.




Listen to the podcast of Gemma’s review live on Breakfast with Caitlin on RTRfm 92.1 here.

Mia Madre is now showing as part of Lotterywest Festival Films, Season 1. At UWA Somerville nightly until Sunday 17 January, then at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tuesday 19 to Sunday 24 January. Tickets/more info: