Mia Madre is a wonderful and emotionally engaging film about a woman who must balance her time between work and her ailing mother, both of which often feel out of her control. It stars Margherita Buy (A Five Star Life) as Margherita, a film director whose new film goes into production at the same time that her mother is hospitalized, and John Turturro as Barry Huggins, her project’s troublesome leading man. The film also stars Nanni Moretti, the film’s director and co-writer, as Margherita’s brother Giovanni.
The film opens with a protest, the police lined up facing those protesting, when suddenly violence erupts. After several moments, Margherita runs out, shouting, “Cut!” The shot doesn’t look right, and she is concerned because one of the cameramen seems to identify heavily with the police rather than with the protestors. While the film seems off to a slightly troubled start, her personal life seems to be somewhat in disarray as well. In addition to her mother being in the hospital, we see Margherita breaking up with her boyfriend, gathering her possessions from his apartment, and learn that her daughter Livia is off skiing with the girl’s father and isn’t following Margherita’s instructions regarding her studies. She seems like a person who must do everything herself, who must be in control. It was her decision to break up with her boyfriend, not his, as he later makes a point of telling her. But when the doctors tell her that her mother is dying, this is something that Margherita cannot control.
She likewise seems to feel her film slipping from her control. When she picks up the film’s star, she tells her brother on the phone, “I can’t tell if he knows I’m the director.” It is said in regards to Barry perhaps not realizing just who it was that picked him up, but it will turn out at moments to be a genuine concern of hers. Barry can be overbearing, a character larger than his own life, and has trouble remembering his lines. After messing up yet another scene, he lashes out: “I want to go back, back to reality! Take me back to reality.” For Margherita, it’s not as easy as all that, for the reality she must face in the hospital is difficult to come to terms with.
Though the film had me nearly in tears at moments, there is a gentle humor infused throughout, and there are some moments that had me laughing aloud, like when Margherita attempts to get certain driving shots to look less fake. I love the honesty of the performances. And I appreciate that we do see Barry’s vulnerability as well.
The DVD contains quite a bit of bonus material. Just A Movie: On The Set Of Mia Madre is a behind-the-scenes look at the movie. It begins with the last moment of production, and then director/actor Nanni Moretti takes us back to the project’s origins, talking about his childhood, visiting his parents’ place with the costume designer. We see work on the model for the set design, and it’s soon clear what a personal story this film is for him. This featurette shows us the process of making the film, focusing on certain scenes.
There are also several deleted scenes, including one where Margherita tries to describe her film’s plot to a fan, and some more material with her daughter, Livia. In addition to those deleted scenes, there is a separate bonus feature focusing on deleted and extended scenes of Barry Huggins, including a funny scene where he talks to the film crew about his previous work. The Actor’s Torture shows outtakes of Nanni Moretti, who is acting in the scene, giving direction to another actor, take after take. Also included in the special features is the film’s trailer.
Mia Madre was released on DVD on November 15, 2016 through Music Box Films.