“Madre Mia”— When Stress and Personality Clash


“Mia Madre”

When Stress and Personality Clash

Amos Lassen

Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a harassed, burnt-out Italian film director who is working on a political film about labor unions and worker’s rights but much of her energy is drained by visiting the hospital every day where her mother Ada (Giulia Lazzarini) is dying of complications stemming from an enlarged heart. She is very grateful her brother Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) has picked up the challenge of being there for their mother.

Shots from "Mia Madre"

Shots from “Mia Madre”


Margherita is also having a hard with Barry Huggins (John Turturro), a brash and loud Hollywood actor who hates being given directions. His claim to fame is that Stanley Kubrick was “crazy” about him. However he does not get the script what the script for this movie says and constantly makes mistakes in his speeches. The tension between Margherita and Barry eventually becomes a screaming match between the two of them.


Nanni Moretti directed and acts in this dramedy about the stresses and the personality clashes suffered by a woman with way too much on her plate. The film is carefully measured and satisfying as the narrative revolves around Margherita’s squabbles on set, her making calls to the hospital, and the regular vigils with her brother by their mother’s bed. Buy and Moretti share a wonderful, low-key chemistry that conveys the intimacy between their characters. Margherita is always wrapped up in the exigencies of directing and she shows fragility and guilt over her absences from her mother’s bedside, while Giovanni is the steadfast one, reversing the usual scenario of women as primary caretakers. The disappointment that Margherita feels about of being easily replaced by her brother, comes together with relief thus adding to the scene’s complexity.


Margherita’s falters and asserts herself, in turns, as she navigates her professional relationship with her film’s American star, Barry. There is a lot of energy in the film and it reflects beautifully how acceptance of adversity, or the building of trust, might happen in real life. There are two fairly compelling stories in the film. The first is about Margherita who is faced with the unenviable task of shooting a movie about a union strike at a factory in an economic environment where the subject matter hits too close to home. Besides that, she also has to deal with the manic personality of Barry.


The second story also follows Margherita, as she struggles to come to terms with the imminent death of her elderly mother. She has to reconcile with her brother Giovanni (director Nanni Moretti) and somehow prepare herself for a definitive emotional trauma upon the death of her mother.


What we clearly see are the struggles of a woman who must somehow remain a dedicated professional despite immense stress in her home life.


Margherita Buy is a compelling leading actress and gives quite a performance. The intent and meaning behind her emotional instability is clear and actress Buy shows understandable gradualism throughout the film.

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