Mia Madre Margherita Buy juggles dealing with an adolescent daughter and directing a lead actor. You can guess which one of them has more mood swings.

Mia Madre (DVD/Blu-ray)
Distributor: Artificial Eye
Certificate: 15.

At first glance, the plot of Mia Madre (My Mother) might seem a little lacklustre. Independent film producer Margherita (Margherita Buy) is struggling to balance the day job with her home life, as her mother Ada (Giulia Lazzarini) goes into hospital and becomes increasingly ill.

Adding to these pressures, her film – a low-budget political piece about a factory closure – features an American actor called Barry Huggins (John Turturro), whose own struggle is remembering his lines.

When her husband and teenage daughter return from a skiing holiday, home life gets a bit more fraught, as her daughter Livia (Beatrice Mancini) finds excuses not to do her homework.

But while Mia Madre is ordinary enough to relate to, it continually floats above the mundane and never sucks the viewer into depression, as Palme d’Or winning director Nanni Moretti (who limits himself to a supporting role as Margherita’s out-of-work brother Giovanni) handles the film with a delicate touch, making it warm, intelligent and poignant. It certainly helps that the affable, yet volatile, Barry steals many of the scenes he is in, adding regular laugh-out-loud moments.

The mix of film-making and mortality have been part of Moretti’s portfolio over the last twenty years and his own mother died while he was making 2011’s Habemus Papam/We Have a Pope. So he is well-placed to find the humour in such situations, as well as the incidents that will make connections with the audience.

In plot terms, this is structured less like a novel and more like a tender short story that focuses in on one brief period of time.

By the end, Moretti makes you wonder exactly which mother the title refers to and his message, which never intrudes into the tale, seems to be, “Live your life with tomorrow in mind, but be good to those around you today.”

Extras: only the trailer.

Derek Walker