At times, Italian director Nanni Moretti’s low-key drama My Mother (Mia Madre in Italian) may seem dull, but those who make the effort to stick with it will soon find themselves connecting with the characters as they experience different forms of confusion.
Film director Margherita (Margherita Bay) is making a movie about a group of factory workers on strike, protesting against layoffs planned by their new owner. She may seem to have her life together, but being on set is an escape from her problems, most of all the worsening condition of her ailing mother (Giulia Lazzarini).
She pushes her teenage daughter Livia (Beatrice Mancini) to learn Latin, because her mother taught it; and while she films, her brother Giovanni (Moretti himself) has put his engineering job on hold to care for their mum.
The unease each character depicts shows how a looming death can affect people in different ways. There are captivating moments when the characters exchange silent glances, communicating a sense of tenderness and guilt without the need for words or action.
The tension in Margherita’s life escalates when she has to play the mother of her lead actor Barry (an absolutely hilarious John Turturro), an obnoxious American who has trouble remembering his Italian lines. Turturro offers the dreary film much-needed comic relief, particularly in one hysterical scene where he tries to act while driving. The underlying message? Life rarely goes according to plan, even in a movie.