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The Son's Gloom

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Alberto Novelli/Alchemy

MOVIE REVIEW
Mia madre (2016)

After a political streak with “The Caiman” and “We Have a Pope,” Nanni Moretti returns to an intimate portrait of the grieving process that recalls his 2001 Cannes winner, “The Son’s Room.” “Mia madre” recounts Italian filmmaker Margherita (Margherita Buy) becoming increasingly preoccupied with her ailing mother, Ada (Giulia Lazzarini), and adolescent daughter, Livia (Beatrice Mancini), while directing a high-profile project with pompous and flamboyant Hollywood hotshot Barry Huggins (John Turturro) attached.

From her interactions with her muse/boy toy, Vittorio (Enrico Ianniello), we glean that her worst artistic temperaments spill over into her private life: She’s moody, high-strung, impulsive, controlling and self-absorbed.

Though inspired by Mr. Moretti’s own experience grappling with his mother’s last days, the film seems reservedly confessional with Ms. Buy as his alter ego. Meanwhile, the filmmaker himself assumes the supporting role of Margherita’s rational academic brother, Giovanni, whom he described in a New York Film Festival press conference as an idealized version of how he wishes he could have been in the situation. It’s hard to tell if objectivity is what he strives for, since Margherita at times comes off more detestable than flawed.

The film definitely encapsulates the communal experience of the boomer generation, having to reckon with the unresolved past while also contending with the present. The universal truth it imparts isn't universally relatable as with “The Son’s Room.” “Mia madre” resonates mostly with the generation that gets it.

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