Review: MIA MADRE and Australia's 2015 Italian Film Festival

Palme d’Or winner (for THE SON’S ROOM) Nanni Moretti’s latest film has a place in this year’s Lavazza Italian Film Festival, touring Australia throughout October. The actor/director also wrote the screenplay for MIA MADRE, based loosely on the experience of his mother’s passing while he was in the middle of directing one of his previous films (WE HAVE A POPE).

Presumably to avoid what is becoming an on-screen cliché of male European directors depicting their relationship with their mothers as a plot device (see: 8 ½, ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, et al), Moretti switches the gender of his main protagonist; Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a film director in the middle of a difficult shoot with Italian American actor Barry Huggins (John Turturro), the stress of which is compounded by Margherita’s mother approaching the end of her life.

Moretti plays Margherita’s home life somberly and the filmmaking scenes as satirical comic relief, but rather than compliment each other the two styles continually jar. Turturro is a welcome boost every time he’s on screen (him trying to remember his lines in Italian as he attempts to drive through Rome in a car laden with cameras and lights is the highlight) and the cast as a whole are fine, but Moretti's scattershot approach never manages to add up to anything memorable, and we never really feel like we're getting to know Margherita any better than we did in the first act.

It doesn't help that Moretti deliversd several times what feel like the final scene, only for this not to be the case and making its 100 minute run time feel maddeningly longer than it actually is. The film certainly isn’t bad, it's just underwhelming. There are many great and exciting looking films programmed in this year’s Italian Film Festival (closing night is a restored print of THE CONFORMIST), but sadly MIA MADRE didn’t turn out to be one of them.

MIA MADRE is screening as part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival in Australia at various dates throughout October (check for details). It is released September 25 in the UK, and is on wide release in Australia from May 5, 2016.