Nanni Moretti makes movies like the great playwrights of old made plays - seemingly free of influence or interference, and defined more by their characters, their dialogue and their ideas than any sense of structure or form. What idiosyncratic structural value the works of those playwrights acquired, however, eludes Moretti, and Mia Madre is the latest example of this shortcoming, and perhaps its most profound to date. The depth and detail that radiates from this film at times is wholly absent from it at others, and the dichotomy is pronounced: Moretti has a handle on his lead character, though not on her work; emotional exchanges of dialogue, not philosophical nor narrative; a select few figures in his ensemble, and none of the others; drama, not comedy, as he attempts both. There's that lack of interference, that which is so valuable in European filmmaking, even as it entails that films such as Mia Madre will inevitably be made. Though the director himself stars in this film, he is clear that his psychological surrogate is Margherita Buy's filmmaker (naturally) - the metatextual significance that her profession contributes is unflattering to the film, as Moretti stages scenes of cumbersome metaphorical heft, betraying the inadequacy of his own mise-en-scene and naively reframing it as hers. Only in Buy's performance does the film suggest a higher level of quality, and she stresses the strain on her character in upholding different responsibilities to different people and purposes, always in a sensitive, heartfelt, naturalistic manner. There's a fantastic film in her face alone, better than the one her character is making, and better than Mia Madre.