When her elderly mother dies - apparently happy but in curious circumstances - her daughter travels home to Naples for the funeral
Native Neapolitan director Mario Martone returns to home territory to serve up a whodunnit that sits on the stomach like a plate of stodgy pasta. It’s pretty indigestible stuff although there’s a certain redeeming style about its execution.
The plot sends career woman Delia (Bonaiuto) scurrying back south after her mother fails to turn up to visit, leaving only a trail of strange phone calls as clues to her disturbed state of mind. Mama Amalia’s (Luce) naked body is duly fished out of the sea. But the pace barely quickens as figures from her past step into the equation and the veiled suggestion of dirty dealing seems to rule out death by natural causes. The police disagree, so Delia strikes out alone to make sense of it all, only to run into the all persuasive and menacing presence of her mother’s long time lover Caserta (Viglietti).
Much is hinted at during soft focus flashbacks to Delia’s childhood, but too little explained to be comprehensible or attention-grabbing. Then just when it seems the plot is going nowhere especially fast, the layers of the mystery tantalisingly part to reveal the truth, with the elegantly poised Bonaiuto a worthy focus for unfolding events.
For all its suggestive comment, it’s hard to credit a murder mystery with sexual misconduct as the key when the object of it all is an ageing, overripe Italian Mama. And in the event, the final resolution of matters is far more than all the dark insinuation suggests. While Matone earns Brownie points for capturing the spirit of his hometown, it hardly makes up for a film sorely lacking in substance.
Well played but nothing to it.