Director: Laura Bispuri
MPAA Rating: NR
Runtime: 97 Minutes
In director Laura Bispuri’s latest work, her premise is substantial, but her story as a whole has a muffled impact. It’s a fine idea, wherein a young girl is on the verge of discovering that her reckless neighbor is her real mother, and her biological mother and stepmother quarrell for guardianship and her love.
As she walks around the carnival rodeo, the little redhead, Vittoria (Sara Casu), stumbles upon her red-haired neighbor, Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher), who’s making it with some guy near the bucking chute. Vittoria briskly walks away to find her brunette mother Tina (Valeria Golino) and hugs her affectionately.
With only two redheads in the entire Sardinian village, it’s fairly obvious that Angelica is the real mother of Vittoria. Vittoria was never told she was adopted, but she is growing up and getting smarter. When she’s face to face with Angelica, you can see that she is recognizing familiar features.
Angelica is a loose and irresponsible drunkard, while Tina is a hard-working and capable woman with a supportive husband. But Angelica’s wild behavior is accompanied by a carefree lifestyle that allures Vittoria, who is used to obedience under Tina, a woman who literally makes her run suicide sprints in the hallway.
Daughter of Mine‘s best quality is this side-by-side comparison of two mothers and their influence over a growing child. Although Tina is obviously the more fit choice for parenthood, Vittoria’s happiest moments occur in the presence of Angelica’s free spirit. Angelica offers adventure and new territory, while Tina unintentionally constructs a claustrophobic atmosphere for the girl.
Through excellent characterization, Bispuri points out parenting’s imperfect nature while raising important motherly concerns. No matter how children are raised, they are naturally going to explore directions contrary to your guidance. Bispuri expresses that familial change is inevitable and so flexible parenting is a tough must.
Dramatically speaking, there are two plots – the tension of the two mothers and their daughter and a debt that Angelica owes to her landlord. Neither of the two strikes hard, partly because the script doesn’t call for it and partly because of Bispuri’s directional choices. There is no clear set time, that we know of, in which the debt must be paid off, and because these women live in the same town, there is no sensible threat of losing a daughter for either of them.
Emotional scenes either have no musical backdrop or are paired with a score that is unfittingly upbeat. Because of Bispuri’s choice to shoot almost every scene using moving long takes, the camera is not utilized to its fullest potential. The direction for every scenario is essentially following the characters with a steadicam.
Casu wasn’t given enough freedom in her performance, which is counterintuitive to a character-driven piece. Golino, who you may remember from the Hot Shots films, looks and performs as great as ever as the worrisome, loving mother. It is rare that actors are believable when they play drunk, but Rohrwacher is an exceptional stumbling, booze-fiending mess.
The contrast of the mothers’ lifestyles and how Vittoria develops through her disorientation is what makes Daughter of Mine a worthy watch. It’s beautiful to see one mother finally begin to learn to love her daughter and sad to see another mother lose the tight bond she once had with hers.