L'Amore Molesto Review
Delia (Anna Bonaiuto), a comic book artist living in Bologna, is expecting a visit from her mother Amalia (Angela Luce), who is travelling from Naples to stay with her on her birthday – but her mother never arrives. After making a strange phone call to Delia that night, the elderly lady is found dead the next morning, drowned. Delia returns to her hometown of Naples for the funeral and investigates a little, hoping to understand what has happened to her. To her surprise, she finds that her mother – long separated from her father – has been seeing a mysterious, tall well-dressed man and behaving in ways she would never have imagined. It seems that she has never really known her own mother.
Rather than being the murder-mystery that it initially seems to set out as, what Delia really finds out from her trip back to Naples is an understanding of her own mother, and through an understanding of her mother, she comes to learn a lot more about herself. The mother-daughter relationship is a complex one, and in addition to coming to terms with difficult events in the past, Delia also has to acknowledge her mother as a sexual being – and the two are deeply intertwined, jumbled up in a mixture of emotions, confused events and blocked-out memories.
Based on a novel by Elena Ferrante, it’s unusual nevertheless to see a male director handle such deeply female subject-matter as well as it is done here, and it’s even more surprising coming from an Italian male director. Yet being Italian, and certainly Neapolitan, is perhaps just as crucial for the treatment of L’Amore Molesto. Martone not only captures the earthiness, the noise, the filth and the chaos of Naples better than most, he also understands the essence of the harsh brutality of interaction between men and women there, and the dark passions that lie behind those friendships and relationships.
It’s all filmed in a troublingly authentic manner – or at least the modern-day segments are. The frequent sepia toned flashbacks that constitute Delia’s memories may seem a little more contrived and conventionally dramatised, but they are no less powerful for their depiction of the roots of age-old grudges, traumas and the guilt that is to have powerful consequences for all involved. And if the resolution seems a little too neatly packaged whereby Delia arrives at the understanding that, in a manner of speaking, she is her mother, the journey to that revelation is at least fully realised.
L’Amore Molesto is released in the UK by Arrow. The film is presented on a single-layer disc in PAL format and is encoded for Region 2.
Arrow’s release of L’Amore Molesto is rather basic, the film letterboxed without anamorphic enhancement, but at least at 1.70:1, it’s close enough to the correct aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Even better, the print is in fine condition, clean but for the most infrequent of occasional white dustspots. The image shows reasonable detail and good colours, though there is no great definition in either. Blacks are quite flat and there is little shadow detail, but everything is at least visible, even in darker passages and interiors. There are some minor digital artefacts, an occasional shimmer and flicker of macroblocking and aliasing, but little that really causes any problem with the reasonably clear and stable transfer.
The audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 only, but this is certainly more than adequate for the limited demands of the soundtrack. It requires only a certain amount of strength to convey the noise and fury of the streets of Naples and the strong exchanges between characters, and it manages both very well.
English subtitles are optional and in a clear white font.
There are no extra features on the DVD.
L’Amore Molesto may initially appear to a conventional-looking murder-mystery tied into events in the past, but a daughter’s investigation into the death of the mother reveals rather more about the relationship between families and about the passions that exist between men and women. These subjects are handled well in Mario Martone’s film, if a little too neatly and over-dramatically in places, but with a strong sense of authenticity nonetheless. Arrow’s DVD release is basic barebones and non-anamorphic, but at least presents the film well in a clean transfer.