New York Film Festival 53 Review: ‘MIA MADRE’

NYFF 53 bannerMIA MADRE_1304Impending death of a loved one is something we’ll all face in our lifetime. Everyone deals with it on their own very personal way. In Nanni Moretti‘s new feature MIA MADRE, Margherita knows her mother is on the verge of death, but is in the kind of denial that turns her world into a tailspin. Trying to separate her professional life and her home life is not working. Relationships with her volatile American actor, her loving brother, young daughter, and her film, are all in jeopardy as she flails through feigning normalcy.MIA MADRE_1252Margherita Buy is beyond brilliant as our lead. Never a false moment or a skipped beat. her presence is perfection and the story is relatable on every level. John Turturro’s outstanding performance as over the top American actor Barry Higgins is equally captivating. His boisterous sense of importance is the perfect foil to Margherita’s slow emotional unraveling. The film’s impact is pretty massive. It will stick with you long after you leave the theater. It’s a true study in human behavior.MIA MADRE_1228jpgIn the press conference immediately following the screening, Nanni Moretti and John Turturro sat down to chat about the experience. Moretti crafted this script when his own mother became ill while he as editing one of his films and later passed away. He explained that Margherita Buy was his first choice to play the leading lady, and that he felt that it would be more interesting to play the story out through a female character. As he was writing and shooting, his catharsis also occurred in his portrayal of the character Giovanni, Margherita’s brother. “Giovanni is the character I wanted to be (in real life), but I’m not.” This quiet, grounded performance speaks volumes and is another gorgeous emotional counterbalance to Margherita.

There was a whole lot of improv on the set. I asked John if it was complicated to switch between fluent Italian and English in the same monologue stream or if that was precisely how Nanni had written the dialogue. John revealed that Nanni asked him to memorize all the lines in Italian, go back and learn them again in English, then once he had a true sense of who ,Barry Huggins was, he had the freedom to play within the languages. He admitted it was incredibly complicated. Let me assure you, it is deliciously effective.

MIA MADRE is a beautiful film. One that we, at Reel News Daily, highly recommend.

  • Directed By Nanni Moretti
  • 2015
  • Italy/France
  • Italian and English with English subtitles
  • DCP
  • 106 minutes

Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a middle-aged filmmaker who has to contend with an international co-production starring a mercurial American actor (John Turturro) and with the realization that her beloved mother (Giulia Lazzarini) is mortally ill. Underrated as an actor, director Nanni Moretti offers a fascinating portrayal as Margherita’s brother, a quietly abrasive, intelligent man with a wonderfully tamped-down generosity and warmth. The construction of the film is as simple as it is beautiful: the chaos of the movie within the movie merges with the fear of disorder and feelings of pain and loss brought about by impending death. Mia Madre is a sharp and continually surprising work about the fragility of existence that is by turns moving, hilarious, and subtly disquieting. An Alchemy release.

Showtimes

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

9:15 PM

Standby Only

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.

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