Berlinale ’18 Review: ‘Daughter of Mine’ and Female Nature

There is something wondrous about Vladan Radovic’s imagery in Daughter of Mine, Laura Bispuri’s warm and well-intentioned sophomore feature. The bright pink of candy cotton, the light blue of the sea, the flaming red of a girl’s head and all the other colours let the setting brim with beauty and liveliness. Everything looks gorgeous, but there is no stylization felt, the island of Sardinia is alive in a way that makes you feel the sand beneath your feet, the taste of salt water in your mouth and the warm sun on your skin.

In this landscape defined by nature, a story is told, that is fittingly defined by human nature – the story of the young Vittoria, excellently played the by incredible child (and first-time) actress Sara Casu, and her search for her “real” mother. At first everything seems to be fine in Vittoria’s life – she knows where her place is. Under the wings of Tina, a woman who tries to raise the girl as she seems to think is right, and with the aim to make her a good and stable person, she is protected and safe, but also isolated, as her interactions with her classmates show.

One day, this all changes, Vittoria witnesses something on accident, that is not necessarily intended for the eyes of a child – Angelica, played by a stunningly committed and wild Alba Rohrwacher, boisterously makes out with a man during a horse rodeo event. She notices Vittoria and stumbles towards her, laughter arises from somewhere inside of her. She is obviously drunk. Vittoria returns to Tina, who is only a few metres away, occupied with buying her cotton candy, but while Vittoria is fine physically, the moment has moved something inside of her – the event is not something extraordinarily disturbing, but it shatters her world view about what women are.

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This is only the beginning of a search for identity that she is venturing on, slowly realizing that Tina is not her biological mother. The film subtly attempts different female role models and how they are seen and positioned in society, and connects that with the specific role of the mother and her responsibilities – the constructed and the real ones. This is Tina’s and Angelica’s story all the same as Vittoria’s, they each get the same focus and the same amount of narrative space. Laura Bispuri’s film takes us on a ride, in which every character is deeply resonant and comprehensible in his perspective and in his actions. The end of the road is naturally a moment of recognition and acceptance of one’s and each other’s flaws – it avoids any judgement and instead highlights how these three females are stronger together, because even with their flaws, they can give each other something that their counterparts lack.

Daughter of Mine never really lifts off from a dramatic perspective, it’s understated and avoids (with a sole, sadly unsuccessful exception) any beats to dramatize the narrative in a way that feels constructed. It’s a quietly flowing story that recognizes conflict of both archaic and contemporary nature, and finds a lot of heft in its impressive audiovisual texture. It’s not a film that is engaging at all times and it doesn’t necessarily feel groundbreaking or new in any way, there are even some moments that border on being clichéd, but if you can see past that, and let yourself be taken by the excellent performances, the wind, the sea, the sand and the italo-disco songs, you will definitely exit it with a feeling of warmth in your belly.

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