Daughter of Mine review: A daughter is torn between two mothers in this beautifully crafted drama from ‘Sworn Virgin’ director Laura Bispuri.
Daughter of Mine review by Paul Heath.
From Italy and filmmaker Laura Bispuri comes this intriguing drama set during a boiling, harsh summer in a small fishing community in a remote Sardinian village. We open on ten-year-old Vittoria (Sara Casu), a red-haired young girl who is attending a local rodeo, seemingly on her own. She wanders around before meeting the hot-headed, hard drinking Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher), a twenty-something woman seemingly only interested in men she can squeeze money out of and drinking the cash away in a small local tavern.
Angelica is heavily in debt, owing over 28,000 Euros, or thereabouts, and at immediate risk of losing her house. Vittoria doesn’t know Angelica, her own mother a very different, slightly older and more stable woman named Tina (Valeria Golino), who lives across town with her father. Little does Vittoria know, the two older women share a big secret, one which asolutely involves her.
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Despite Tina making secret visits to the downtrodden farm on which Angelica resides, she doesn’t know that her daughter has started to see her as well, the fiery young woman taking her on trips into the countryside and to the caves near the beach. When Tina finds out, she offers Angelica money to try to dissuade her from seeing her young daughter, but with bills mounting and constant threats from letters coming through her door, Angelica threatens to move to the mainland permanently.
Bispuri’s film is a tale of a young girl, struggling to fit in – she’s often ridiculed for her looks – on a journey of self-discovery and the people she looks up to as role models. The secret at the heart of the film is never offered as a major twist – let’s face it, is perfectly obvious from the title of the film alone – but is constantly at the back of one’s mind as the engrossing narrative plays out.
Despite its predictability in terms of that, there are twists and turns which weren’t as obvious, but the film’s major talking point are the three strong female performances within, particularly from newcomer Casu as Vittoria and Rohrwacher as Angelica. Golina, once a major Hollywood character actress and star of films like Rain Man and parody Hot Shots! Has been carving out quite a career in her homeland for the past few decades, and her turn in Daughter of Mine will do nothing to harm her glowing world cinema resume. She’s exceptional here.
Though set in the dense sizzling summer of contemporary Sardinia, the sun drenching every frame, cinematographer Vladan Radovic has managed to give the imagery a very bleak, but still beautiful desaturated look, the camera almost completely handheld, adding to the realistic tone of the narrative.
Despite often musical interludes from composer Nando Di Cosimo, the lack of constant score, the filmmakers choosing to allow the sounds of the surroundings to serve us aurally, also adds to the naturalism of the piece.
Daughter of Mine is one the strongest contenders so far this year at the Berlinale, the in-competition film being warmly received by critics in its first press screening, and rightly so as Bispuri’s sophomore effort is a beautifully told tale of conflict and motherhood, detailed through very well-written narrative, wonderfully executed by everyone involved.
Daughter of Mine review by Paul Heath, February 2018.
Daughter of Mine is awaiting a release. It was reviewed at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival.