Italian director Laura Bispuri’s latest feature, which premiered at the Berlinale last year, delves into the trials and tribulations of motherhood and childhood.
On the sun-baked coast of Sardinia, 9-year-old Vittoria’s (Sara Casu) quiet life is shaken up when she meets wild, binge-drinking Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher), whom she doesn’t know is her birth mother. A stark contrast to Vittoria’s moralistic adoptive mother Tina (Valeria Golino), Angelica is bad-mouthed and adventurous but deeply troubled; she faces eviction from her dilapidated farm if she can’t scrape together more than 28,000 euros. In spite of Angelica’s initial hostility and unpleasantness, Vittoria begins spending more and more time with her, much to her mother’s dismay. In Tina’s eyes Angelica is a venus fly trap, luring her daughter into a dangerous lifestyle of which she doesn’t approve. The two women, as it turns out, have a long and complicated past which is unearthed through their push-and-pull relationship with the girl whom they both call ‘daughter’. As the fabric of their bond starts to fray, Vittoria finds herself torn between the mother who loves her and the mother who liberates her.
There are no perfect parents to be found here, but rather two deeply flawed mother figures who believe they know what’s best for Vittoria. At first, the line drawn between the two women is clear-cut; they could not be more dissimilar. Tina is portrayed as the responsible, caring and “good” mother, while Angelica is the reckless, immature and “bad” mother. But this line begins to blur as they feel increasingly threatened by each other, and it’s within this grey area that the film really questions what it means to be a mother.
The weight of the narrative is carried with sheer tenacity by the three lead actresses, whose powerful performances sell the story so effectively. Their on-screen talent, coupled with the off-screen skilfulness of Bispuri as both writer and director, makes for an unapologetically woman-centric production. As such, the female gaze is visible and steadfast; the concept of motherhood is defined not by a husband or a father but rather by the women themselves. Male characters are present but relatively unimportant, which rightly keeps the female familial love triangle at the heart of the story.
Bispuri’s commitment to exploring the complexities of female relationships makes Daughter of Mine a raw and impassioned piece of cinema. Its unconventionality does not diminish its sobering realism but instead renders it compelling and memorable, securing the film as a refreshing new addition to the drama genre.
by Holly Weaver
Holly Weaver is currently studying French and Spanish at the University of Leeds, and has spent her year abroad studying film in Montréal. An old soul, she is enraptured by pre-1960s cinema and some of her favourite films include Singin’ in the Rain, City Lights and The Crime of Monsieur Lange. Her life ambition is to dress like Phillip “Duckie” Dale from Pretty in Pink, her one true style icon. You can find her tweeting and letterboxd’ing at @drivermiller.