Berlin Diary 4: Motherhood. Swedish real estate. And a thriller on a computer screen.

Posted on February 19, 2018


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Inspired by AM Homes’s memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter, the Italian director Laura Bispuri has come up with Figlia mia (Daughter of Mine). It’s the story of a 10-year-old girl named Vittoria (Sara Casu), who strikes a rapport with her biological mother (Angelica, played by Alba Rohrwacher), while her adoptive mother (Tina, played by Valeria Golino) watches helplessly. The film is set in the beautiful Sardinian countryside, and it’s filled with natal imagery that’s also suggestive of the central relationships. A dog is impregnated by a stray. A pregnant eel becomes a symbol of separation. (The female travels miles into the sea to spawn, and returns to freshwater, leaving the eggs behind.) Most startlingly, Vittoria enters a hole in the ground that makes it seem like she’s crawling back into the womb.

But the film’s emotional beats are depressingly predictable. Tina is Mother Earth, ready to prepare meatballs after a long day of doing blue-collar work. Angelica serves beans from a can. To the director’s credit, she doesn’t make it a contest. The drunk, promiscuous, emotionally fragile Angelica can never measure up to Tina’s Supermom. So it’s heartbreaking to see Vittoria warm up to Angelica. This should have been a shattering drama, but the director seems to be after mood rather than plot. That’s not a problem — except when shots are held for such durations that we seem to be taking an awfully long time to get to where we always knew we were going. I laughed at some of Angelica’s lines. “I named my dog Luciana, after my mother. Like all mothers, she was a bitch.” A few more barbs would have greatly helped to cut through the gauzy solemnity.

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Posted in: Cinema: Foreign