Italian director Nanni Moretti gets at a troubling topic that all of us will face, if we haven’t already — the death of our mothers.
It’s a fictional story, but it has lots of autobiographical elements, especially since Moretti recently lost his mother.
The movie focuses on Margherita (Margherita Buy), a director who’s in the middle of making a movie about unemployment and social unrest in Italy. She’s a demanding director, and she has a troublesome star, Barry (John Turturro), who plays a capitalist who is taking over an industrial facility and coping poorly with sit-down strikes.
But Barry has another problem: Although funny and lively, he can’t remember his lines. And that’s the last thing Margherita needs, because she has a lot on her plate in her private life. Her mother’s lungs and heart are giving out, and the mother has been confined to a hospital. The prognosis is not good.
She and her brother Giovanni (Moretti, who frequently stars in his movies) provide loving care to the mother, visiting her often and bringing her specialty meals. But they gradually learn that their mother is dying and that there’s no hope for recovery.
Margherita has also broken off a relationship, and she has a daughter from a previous marriage. The daughter Livia (Beatrice Mancini) has been having troubles of her own, with her first teenage relationship ending in a shambles.
The movie’s heart lies, however, in the relationship between Margherita and her mother Ada (Giuila Lazzarini), and there’s one particular scene near the end, where she’s trying to help her mother to the bathroom, that will break your heart.
As you can probably gather, “My Mother” won’t be a box-office hit. But it doesn’t try to be. It takes a very humanistic approach to a situation we all face in our lives. And it really hits home.
It probably won’t be released in the United States until much later this year, and it’ll probably be shown only on arthouse screens. But when you pair it with Woody Allen’s comments on Friday about how we use “distractions” to keep us from facing the reality of death, then this movie becomes even more resonant.
Allen says that uses movies as his distraction from reality. But here’s a movie that faces reality head-on. Along with the Hungarian Holocaust drama “Son of Saul,” it should be in the running for one of the festival’s top prizes.