Ernesto is a successful artist who has his life turned upside down by his family's wishes for the canonization of his murdered mother. His extreme dislike for her ignorant ways brings about a greater connection with his insane brother who killed her, while his other brothers favor her beatification. There is a struggle of wills and will power. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
"My Mother's Smile (L'Ora di religione: Il sorriso di mia madre)" is a rollicking take on Catholicism that's very like how "I Heart Huckabees" treated existentialism, but with even more Tom Robbins-like absurdist humor.
Almost Kafka-like, with a touch of Woody Allen, the central character is the straight man in the joke, particularly with Sergio Castellitto's hang dog look (he was the Italian lover in "Mostly Martha") as he wakes up one morning to discover that his mother is about to be declared a saint.
We see the impact of this hypocritical quest on his ex-wife, brothers, old friends, aunts, priests and other people he has to come in contact with over two days, as everyone has selfish reasons for promoting sainthood. The potential canonization also becomes a vehicle to examine violence, sin, madness, ambition, love, parent/child relationships, philosophy, and art, as the central figure is an artist and the titular expression is captured in a Mona Lisa-like portrait.
The satire goes a bit overboard, though, when the son is challenged to a duel at dawn, though I think there was some point about the pointlessness of archaic societal rules. Small characters are weighted with too many meanings, like a crazy architect seeking to blow up a national monument that figures in a souvenir photograph, a witness whose name is a pseudonym from Dante, a mysterious, beautiful religion teacher, and more symbolism that went by, particularly as this is one of those typical Italian movies where the subtitles seem abridgments of the conversations.
In a lovely twist on the pieta, the most moving scenes are the paternal ones between father and son.
The soundtrack includes beautiful contemporary classical religious music including Adams and Tavener.
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