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Film review: My Mother – Italian auteur Nanni Moretti’s funny and poignant melodrama

Story of a director contending with an ailing mother is a tale of grief so well crafted it feels fully authentic; John Turturro’s character is a brilliant comic creation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2016, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2016, 4:32pm

4/5 stars

Five years on from We Have A Pope, Italian auteur Nanni Moretti returns with My Mother (also titled Mia Madre), one of the most quietly personal films of his distinguished career. Made in the wake of his own mother’s death, this is up there with his Palme d’Or-winning The Son’s Room, for the way it reaches inside you and gracefully touches your heart.

Films about directors enduring mini-meltdowns – from Federico Fellini’s to Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories – are nothing new. But this story, about the way we process grief, is written and performed with such care, it feels utterly authentic.

Margherita Buy stars as a director named Margherita, working on a new movie about a factory strike just as her life is imploding. Along with her brother Giovanni (Moretti), she must contend with her ailing mother and the demise of her latest love affair. Worse still, she has to deal with her movie’s star, the Italian-American upstart Barry Huggins (John Turturro), who plays the factory owner.

Frequently forgetting his lines, preferring instead to spin scarcely believable anecdotes about the time he worked with “Stanley” (Kubrick, that is), Huggins is a brilliant comic creation, a perfect counterpoint to the film’s melancholic centre. Turturro judges it perfectly, never letting Huggins become simply a clown for hire; there’s an astute sprinkling of tenderness in his performance.

By the end, you won’t know whether your tears are those of laughter or of sorrow.

My Mother opens on May 5

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