Picks of the Week: Complex, Female-Led Stories Come to Life in “Russian Doll” and “Daughter of Mine”

Picks of the Week is Women and Hollywood’s newest resource. We are often asked for recommendations, so each week we’ll spotlight the women-driven and women-made projects—movies, series, VOD releases and more—that we’re most excited about. Sign up for the Women and Hollywood newsletter at womenandhollywood.com to get each week’s picks delivered to your inbox.


This Week’s Pick: “Russian Doll” (Series)

Created by Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler

Like Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day before it, Netflix’s “Russian Doll” sees its lead character re-living the same day over and over. Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) can’t escape her 37th birthday celebrations alive. She gets hit by a car, falls down stairs and finds death lurking behind pretty much every corner. The gifted video-game engineer is determined to find the bug in the universe’s code that brings her death—and re-birth—day after day.

A surreal story about mortality, morality and what it means to be human, “Russian Doll” reveals layer after layer in each 30-minute episode. Hilarious and tragic by turns, creators Lyonne, Amy Poehler and “Sleeping with Other People” writer-cum-director Leslye Headland go far beyond “Russian Doll’s” gimmicky-sounding premise and take it to unexpectedly deep and dark places.

The series is a great showcase for Lyonne’s talents—she also co-wrote “Russian Doll” and directed an episode. (All eight installments are helmed by women. Joining Lyonne behind the camera are Headland and her “But I’m a Cheerleader” director Jamie Babbit.) Plus, “Orange Is the New Black” fans will be happy to see that some of the multi-hyphenate’s cast-mates from the prison dramedy have come along for the ride. (Laura Berger)

“Russian Doll” premieres on Netflix February 1.


This Week’s Pick: Daughter of Mine

Directed by Laura Bispuri; Written by Laura Bispuri and Francesca Manieri

Sometimes it’s hard to watch, but Daughter of Mine is a film filled to the brim with empathy. The story centers around a girl about to turn 10, the woman she believes is her mother and the biological mother who just wasn’t ready for parenthood. Laura Bispuri’s second narrative feature explores love, maturity and desperation—and refuses to judge any of its characters.

Tina (Valeria Golino) has raised Vittoria (Sara Casu) pretty much since her birth, when Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher) gave her up. Tina and Vittoria are incredibly close, but things aren’t perfect: Tina’s entire identity is wrapped up in her motherhood and Vittoria has no friends. Angelica is a free spirit who’s always short on money and is as passionate about life as she is volatile.

Facing the prospect of leaving town due to a cash flow problem, Angelica decides to get to know Vittoria while she still can. Vittoria is quickly smitten: she sees Angelica as the fun, worldly older sister she’s always wanted, a person to have fun with who isn’t her mom. As Vittoria and her birth mother grow closer, Tina feels more and more threatened—and frightened she’s losing her daughter. Angelica, however, becomes more and more maternal toward Vittoria, but she knows deep down she doesn’t have the capacity to raise a child.

The best part of Daughter of Mine is that there is no hero or villain. Instead, Tina, Angelica, and Vittoria are all just human. As you watch the emotional desires and needs of these three characters collide, you wish there was some way both mothers could have Vittoria. And you pull for Vittoria to receive the stability and care she requires and the friendship she craves. There’s no right answer, and that’s why Daughter of Mine sticks with you. (Rachel Montpelier)

Read Women and Hollywood’s interview with Laura Bispuri.

Daughter of Mine opens in NY and LA February 1. Find screening info here.

Women and Hollywood educates, advocates and agitates for gender diversity and inclusion in Hollywood and the global film industry. The site, founded in 2007 by Melissa Silverstein, sets the standard, defines the conversation, fuels coverage and reinforces messages throughout the specialized and mainstream media to call for gender parity on a daily basis. Follow W&H at @WomenaHollywood and Melissa @MelSil.

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