Saturday, February 2, 2019

Mothering gets a look-see in Laura Bispuri's Sardinia-set drama, DAUGHTER OF MINE

A young daughter's interest in and need for her real mother versus the parents who have raised her since birth is the subject of DAUGHTER OF MINE, a new Italian film by Laura Bispuri, her second full-length feature, following the much-better movie from 2015, Sworn Virgin. Set in the Sardinian countryside and featuring a set of characters, most of whom seem to be playing with what we might term as "less than a full deck," the movie tells the tale of ten-year-old Vittoria, who belatedly realizes during the course of the film that the town prostitute and drunk, Angelica (note the irony here), played by the great Alba Rohrwacher, is her actual birth mother, rather than the much more angelic and saintly Tina (Valeria Golino) who, along with her kindly and much more intelligent husband, has raised little Vittoria since her birth.

The two mothers seem to share a deep and longstanding friendship, though only Tina understands or cares about what raising a child actually entails. When Angelica suddenly decides that she wants to be more involved in her daughter's life, the two women seem set on a collision course.

This ought to provide more than enough drama and incident to pack a 97-minute movie, but Ms Bispuri (shown at left), who directs and also co-wrote (with Francesca Manieri, from a memoir by A.M. Homes) appears to have been content to give her two mothers little more than one characteristic each -- Angelica is drunk/slutty, while Tina is frightened/grieving -- and then simply runs with that. Little Vittoria (played by talented newcomer Sara Casu, shown at left, above and below) fortunately offers more interesting sides: She's spunky, inquisitive, and ready to learn.

Because the two moms are played by two of Italy's finest actresses, these roles are given more than the mostly one-note character the screenplay offers. Ms Rohrwacher (above, right), in my estimation Italy's finest living actress -- as versatile and committed as you could want -- brings as much shading to her performance as possible, while Ms Golino (at left, below) does the same, yet neither is enough to goose this eventually rather mawkish story to any higher level.

Further, the characters seem particularly dim: Angelica even stupidly, maybe drunkenly endangers her daughter's life, while Tina simply dithers and dithers, even as her husband reminds her more than once about the fact that he and his wife have never had and do not now have any actual legal right to their daughter. The final scene, in which our young girl leads these two utter dummies along behind her, makes some humorous if ironic sense, but it is not likely to engender much emotion, I fear, except in those viewers who've put their brain in check before watching.

The supporting cast is mostly made up of the town's menfolk, the younger of whom buy Angelica a drink in return for a quick fuck or blow job, along with one older man (the always fun-to-watch Udo Kier) who wants to buy the birth mom's horses -- perhaps for the glue factory, so she refuses to sell.

From Strand Releasing, the movie opened in New York City (at the Quad Cinema) and in Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Royal) yesterday, and will expand its run to a few other theaters over the weeks to come. Click here and then click on Screenings to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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