For those who only know about Enzo Ferrari casually, the existence of “Ferrari” may seem odd on the surface. After all, most movies about the sport of racing — “Grand Prix,” “Le Mans,” “Days of Thunder,” and even “Ford v Ferrari” (which Mann co-executive produced) — focus on the drivers, not the owners.
“Ferrari” explains this potential confusion directly from the cold open, which depicts a young Enzo in his days as a race car driver during the 1920s, the footage treated to look like it was taken during that era. With this elegant opening, Mann announces that “Ferrari” is indeed a movie about a racer; despite that part of his life being behind him, it’s clear that his mentality was formed from his days behind the wheel.
The bulk of the film takes place in Modena, Italy in 1957, a decade after Ferrari and his wife, Laura (Penelope Cruz) founded Ferrari S.p.A. 1957 also marks the first anniversary of the death of Laura and Enzo’s only son, Alfredo aka Dino, who passed away in 1956 from muscular dystrophy. As a result, all is not well in the Ferrari household. Make that two households: Enzo spends half his time with the mistress he loves, Lina Lardi (Shailene Woodley), and their own son, Piero (Giuseppe Festinese). When he does go home to Laura, the two either bitterly discuss business, as Laura has been made owner of half of the company, or fight explosively about the loss of their son and their relationship.
Each parent deals with the still-painful loss in their own way. Enzo visits Dino’s grave every day, weeps, and moves on, rushing headlong into business and preparing his racing team. Meanwhile, Laura moves like a ghost haunting her own life, visiting Dino’s grave separately from her husband. Upon seeing Enzo return from spending the night with Lina, she angrily fires a gun at him. Enzo believes she deliberately missed, but Enzo’s mother Adalgisa (Daniela Piperno), who lives in the eerie mansion with the married couple, isn’t so sure.