Daughter Of Mine


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Daughter Of Mine
"Beautifully lit, Daughter Of Mine conjures up a tremendous sense of place, all salt breezes, scrubland and golden sand." | Photo: Valerio Bispuri

It begins behind the scenes at a rodeo. Delicate, flame-haired Vittoria (Sara Casu) is wandering around in that bored way that children do when she stumbles across a skinny woman making out with one of the workers, Seeing her, the woman smiles. Though she quickly makes herself scarce, Vittoria is intrigued. Here is a glimpse of a world she has likely never seen before, sheltered as she is in her small Sardinian village. Mother Tina (Valeria Golino) quickly wraps her arms around her, restoring normality. But Tina has her own reasons to feel disquieted.

What emerges, so quickly that there's no real point in worrying about spoilers, is that the stranger, Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher) is Vittoria's birth mother; the two bear a noticeable resemblance. Tina, who used to work as a midwife, informally adopted the girl at birth because the dissolute younger woman would have struggled to look after her. Angelica's life doesn't seem to have changed much in the meantime. Heavily indebted, she makes some money from sex work but her dependency on alcohol means that much of the time she'll exchange sexual favours simply for a drink. The men in the area are tired of her, the women shun her, and now she faces the prospect of having to sell her beloved horses to a man who wants to turn them into glue. So she turns to Tina partly in an attempt at extortion - she might easily take the child away, with the law on her side - and partly as a consequence of accultured dependency. Tina has rescued her so often before that she's become like a mother to her as well. Even now that Angelica's behaviour is making her afraid, Tina cares for her, trying to comfort her, to shield her from a bruising world.

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As Angelica takes an interest in her daughter once again, things begin to shift. Vittoria is enchanted by her differentness, her wildness. Does she love the girl? Perhaps, perhaps not. There may be an additional mercenary aspect to her interest, and certainly a dangerous one. Yet spending time together seems to become more of a delight to her, less of a means to an end - and, in time, a necessity. Meanwhile, Tina becomes afraid not only of having the girl bodily taken away from her but also of losing her affection.

Caught between these two very different female influences, Vittoria tries to find her own path towards adulthood, her own way of being. Casu admirably holds her own alongside her seasoned co-stars. In a setting that has seen many an adult woman hopelessly torn between two men, her character is no mere prize to be fought over; she becomes increasingly determined to take her fate into her own hands.

Beautifully lit, Daughter Of Mine conjures up a tremendous sense of place, all salt breezes, scrubland and golden sand. Grey cliffs tower over a sparkling blue sea and plateaus or rock conceal hidden fissures, secret caves. There's a suggestion of ancient ritual, of the birth of the people out of the land. Signs of fertility are everywhere, but equally present are walls and barriers that restrict women's lives. Every form of transport seems to be controlled by men; in her defiance of these limits, Angelica positions herself as a permanent outsider. Yet Tina's refusal to desert her is every bit as rebellious at its core.

Though it's too heavy-handed with its metaphors and tends to overemphasise points that were unmissable to begin with, this is an impressive follow-up to 2015's Sworn Virgin and makes it clear that Bispuri is a filmmaker with real vision - someone we'll undoubtedly be seeing a lot more of in years to come.

Reviewed on: 27 Jan 2019
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Vittoria is growing up in a remote Sardinian village. One day she meets the wildly independent Angelica who is so very different to her own caring mother Tina. The young girl has no knowledge of the secret that connects these two women.

Director: Laura Bispuri

Writer: Laura Bispuri, Francesca Manieri

Starring: Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Udo Kier, Michele Carboni

Year: 2018

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Italy, Germany, Switzerland

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