Masters

Sweet Dreams

Marco Bellocchio

Italian master Marco Bellocchio (Vincere, Blood of My Blood) adapts the popular biographical novel by Massimo Gramellini, about a journalist who is haunted by the memory of the mother who died in his childhood.

Over an illustrious career that stretches back to the '60s and his groundbreaking Fists in the Pocket, Marco Bellocchio has struggled with his own personal demons against the backdrops of both contemporary and historic Italy. The family has never been far from his purview, and it is certainly central to this arresting and emotional portrait of a mother-and-son relationship. Drawing from Massimo Gramellini's popular biographical novel Sweet Dreams, Little One, Bellocchio makes the source material his own, tracing a middle-aged man's struggle to come to grips with the loss of his mother when he was nine years old.

Memories are a key part of Sweet Dreams, and Bellocchio effortlessly brings to life those moments that are etched in the mind of Massimo (Valerio Mastandrea): memories of a mother who is suddenly and cruelly taken from him. This amputation will come to define Massimo as he wrestles with it into his forties. Setting out on a career as a reporter, he skips amongst different beats and assignments — sports, the war in Bosnia — before writing an advice column. Relationships come and go as well, until, when Massimo seems at wit's end, along comes a woman who could be a replacement for his mother.

Working with cinematographer Daniele Ciprì for the fourth time, Bellocchio wraps his film in a delicate gauze of memory while remaining sensitive to the present-day struggles of his protagonist. This is perhaps the most nakedly emotional film we have seen from Bellocchio, but it completely avoids cheap melodrama. Sweet Dreams is a deeply felt work that will resonate with anyone who has dealt with loss. In other words, most everyone.

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