Daughter of Mine is a standout at the 2018 Berlinale

25. February 2018

Three actresses deliver brilliant performances in Italian director Laura Bispuri’s new film, which definitely deserves an award.

By Andrea D’Addio

Laura Bispuri presented her directorial debut, Sworn Virgin (Vergine giurata), at the Berlinale in 2015. Three years later, she is back with Daughter of Mine (Figlia mia). The only Italian entry in this year’s competition, it clearly stands out among the films screened at the Berlin festival.

TWO MOTHERS, ONE CHILD

Daughter of Mine tells the story of ten-year-old Vittoria and two women, her adoptive mother Tina and her biological mother Angelica, vying for her affection. The two mothers couldn’t be more different, but they are united in their love for their daughter.

The story is set in a little village in Sardinia, where (almost) everyone knows everyone else. Years ago the two women arranged the adoption in secret: except for the adoptive mother’s husband, no one else knows about it. The daughter does not even get to know her biological mother until the latter announces her plans to leave Sardinia to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

MORE THAN A FEMINIST FILM

Three actresses, one director. Nowadays, with women’s issues increasingly writ large in the media, we might easily conclude that Daughter of Mine is a perfect example of contemporary feminist cinema. And yet the film is more than that, for it tells a universal story that goes beyond any specific place, period or genre label. It’s a film about love in its purest form, about a love so great that it encompasses several people without thereby losing in intensity.

Bispuri needs only a single scene to show that human nature follows a logic of its own, one that requires no explicit verbal articulation. It’s the moment at which Angelica dances and sings in front of her daughter next to a car parked at the roadside. At first, Vittoria is shy and quiet as always, but then she slowly begins to join in and sing along. It’s a beautiful and yet bittersweet scene, for it also conveys the pain of the adoptive mother, who doesn’t deserve to be excluded.

How can such a situation be resolved in which everyone seems to be right, and yet no one can be completely right with all the consequences that would entail? This question increasingly preoccupies the audience, too. We can’t help hoping that fate will somehow decide the matter for all three. But that doesn’t happen. In the end, the matter is settled by the person we least expected to take the situation in hand, and when that happens, everything suddenly appears to make perfect sense. The ability to tell a story so coherently and compellingly is not a matter of course. Laura Bispuri proves she is a capable writer as well as director: the screenplay is by her and Francesca Manieri.

The casting is also felicitous: Alba Rohrwacher, Valeria Golino and Sara Casu all deliver outstanding performances. Hopefully we will see at least one of them again – if not all of them together – at the awards ceremony for this year’s Berlinale.

This blog post was originally published here and was republished with permission from Goethe-Institut.

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