Ferrari: Driving a Legacy

It’s in the moments of adversity where one discovers what drives a person.

Set in the summer of 1957, Ferrari follows ex-racer Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) in a moment of crisis. Crippled with debt, the Ferrari name is in financial peril. What’s more, his marriage has become increasingly hostile over the years, exacerbated by the recent death of their son, Dino. Facing bankruptcy, Enzo has become emotionally stagnant, his only peace coming during the time that he spends with his mistress, Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley) and their illegitimate son, Piero. With famed 1,000 mile race the Mille Miglia fast approaching, Enzo must figure out a way to secure a victory—and the legacy of the family name.

Although one might expect that the thrill of Ferrari lies on the track, Mann places much of the drama off the road. Despite featuring some beautiful (and terrifying) racing sequences, Ferrari chooses to focus on the burdens on Ferrari behind closed doors. Unlike Mangold’s recent Ford vs. Ferrari, Mann’s film spins into a character study of a someone desperately seeking solace. Here, the script puts the spotlight on a particular moment of Ferrari’s life, as he’s contemplating the matter of his life.

It’s worth noting though that Ferrari risks taking a wrong turn in moments when it veers too far into the male ego. While Mann does an excellent job wrestling with the male ego, his films are not known for their female characters. As such, the same sorts of cracks begin to appear here. Despite strong performances by Cruz and Woodley, their characters do feel slightly underwritten, often succumbing to girlfriend/wife stereotypes.

Taking the wheel as the man himself though, Ferrari provides Driver the opportunity to tap into another side of his skills as an actor. Known for such roles as Kylo Ren in Star Wars and Charlie in Marriage Story, Driver often leans into his explosive personality. However, as Enzo Ferrari, he’s required to play a much more muted character. In this moment of his life, Ferrari bears the weight of his sins on his soul. This is not the image of a boardroom tyrant, but rather someone looking for the spark of life. He is a man who has been broken down rather than one who breaks down others. As a result, Ferrari isn’t about fighting to be champion. It’s about a man trying to preserve his legacy. 

Set in the summer of 1957, Enzo Ferrari wants his name to mean something. Facing pressure from Maserati, the Ferrari company is under financial pressure. Mysteriously bleeding money, Ferrari’s brand has reached a tipping point. Enzo wants his name to be forever associated with sports cars and racing but, with a loss at the Mille Miglia, there is a possibility that they could go bankrupt. 

What’s more, Enzo has become torn between two worlds. Stuck in a dead-end marriage, he spends his nights in the arms of another woman and caring for a son who he has yet to acknowledge. Under pressure by his mistress to give his son the Ferrari name, Enzo hesitates for fear of the pressure that it will put upon both the boy and himself. 

Within these two tensions, Mann’s film recognizes the power of a name. In both his personal and public lives, Enzo grapples with the meaning of the Ferrari name. As with much of Mann’s work, Ferrari is an exploration of the masculine psyche and what it means to ‘matter’. Nearing the end of his life, Enzo’s desire is to see his name be one that lasts. 

A name that means something. 

But his quest for immortality because an inquest into his soul. For Enzo, the Ferrari name is meant to inspire power and glory but his personal journey forces him to ask if that’s really enough. 

Ferrari is available in theatres on Friday, December 22nd, 2023.

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