Thursday 22 March 2018

Film review: Mom & Me - reflections are funny and sometimes very moving

Cert PG; Now Showing

Director Paul Feig poses with cast member Kristen Wiig at the Ghostbusters premiere.
Director Paul Feig poses with cast member Kristen Wiig at the Ghostbusters premiere.

Irish film-maker Ken Wardrop's second documentary feature is deceptive. At first it feels a little superficial. There are 20 American men of all ages, interests, orientations and races talking with, to and about their mothers. Some of what they say feels like sound bites but although, at 76 minutes, it is a short feature, what layers up is a very affecting and surprisingly deep look at the relationship that makes the world go round.

Keen to move beyond his comfort zone in Ireland, Wardrop, whose 2010 film His & Hers became Ireland's highest grossing documentary, wanted to examine the effect that mothers have on masculinity. That he ended up making it in Oklahoma, voted America's manliest state, was a by-product of the man around whom he built the film. The construct, based on a comment made during a Q&A for his first film, is around a radio show and the real host that Wardrop chose is Joe Cristiano. Although essentially a political commentator, Wardrop liked his style and tone and they created a show, and Cristiano ad-libbed, ostensibly for Mother's Day, inviting men to phone in and discuss their relationships with the mothers. The men who end up talking are not random, they're a carefully-selected, cross-section and their reflections are funny and sometimes very moving.

The film goes straight into the relationships, with the back story only emerging during the conversation. This did frustrate the nosey parker in me but it does serve to place the focus on the emotional present of the relationship. The sons are all different and so too are the mothers, the families, the parenting styles and the results. It's a documentary in a very little sense in that it shows stories but leaves the conclusions entirely up to the viewer. 4 Stars

Aine O'Connor


Cert: Club. Opens in selected cinemas from Friday

If you think the Enlightenment or even today's era of liberal tolerance might have gone some way towards dragging mankind out of the cave, perhaps suspend your assumption until the end of this spry Greek comedy-drama.

Greek new-wave doyen Athina Rachel Tsangari locks six middle-aged men on a luxury fishing cruiser in the Aegean and sets them playfully against each other. En route home from a spear-fishing vacation, the men have time to kill during the voyage. A late-night chat around the dinner table results in the implementation of a vessel-wide point-scoring game where a vast array of trials are agreed upon for the six to measure up to.

They are all good at certain things but this game will seek to determine who among them is "the best" all-rounder, an arbitrary concept, perhaps, but one plotted out via everything from (unsurprisingly) penis size to culinary skill to Ikea furniture assembly. A palpable edge fills the atmosphere as the friends start sizing each other up and taking the game very seriously. Naturally, it gets personal.

It would be too easy for co-writers Efthymis Filippou and Tsangari to let such a soup of fragile male egos and testosterone-fuelled one-upmanship spiral into tragedy. The point of this whole exercise, bar putting on show how ridiculously competitive men can be, is the hunger we all feel for validation in the eyes of our peers and wider society. A kind of "school changing room" ambience is brewed by the super ensemble cast that mixes an endearing level of primitiveness with some edible absurdist comedy. The BFI London Film Festival clearly thought so when they awarded it Best Film last October. 4 Stars

Hilary A White


Cert 16; Now Showing

French film-maker Catherine Corsini's 10th film is her most personal and her best. Set against the beginnings of the feminist movement in Paris in 1971, it's an atmospheric and affecting tale of a passionate but difficult love and perhaps, inevitably, about self acceptance. Summertime (La Belle Saison) is evocative, emotional and beautifully acted. I don't understand why it has a 16 cert.

In 1971 Delphine (Izia Higelin) moves from rural France to Paris where she is immediately enchanted by the passion and liberation of a feminist action group. The notion of women as equal to men is new to her but so too is being able to be openly gay. She falls for Carole (Cécile De France), not realising that Carole is in a relationship with a man. But Delphine doesn't let that stop her and the two become involved in a passionate affair.

Delphine's new life comes to an abrupt end when her father has a stroke and she is obliged to take over farm duties, returning to a more repressive world where even a woman on a combine harvester is surprising. Carole however, having lived all her life in Paris, doesn't see the same impediments to their great love affair and moves in with Delphine, her mother Monique (Noémie Lvovsky in a really fantastic performance) and the now severely-invalided father (Jean-Henri Compere). Although it works in ways, the culture clash and stress of secrecy prove tough going. Corsini, who said she had a hard time accepting her lesbianism in the early 1970s, co-writes and directs with great feeling. The film, thanks to the writing, direction, performances, and great chemistry between the lovers, packs a real emotional punch. 4 Stars

Aine O'Connor


Cert 12A; Now Showing

The upside of all the weird moaning about the all-female cast for this re-imagining of Ghostbusters is the backlash wish for it to succeed. Sony kept the results closely guarded until last weekend which can be a bad sign. But sigh of relief, it's OK. The film works really well. It maintains the spirit of the original whilst being different enough from it - not that anyone in the target audience would care - it's funny and jogs along nicely. Although whilst not scary it might spook little kids.

Erin (Kristen Wiig) is a physicist awaiting tenure when a book she wrote years before with her former friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy) appears on Amazon. Serious science frowns on ghosthunting so Erin tries to persuade Abby to take it off the market. But Abby has not lost faith and she is now working with mad scientist Holtz (Kate McKinnon) in their pursuit of the supernatural. Erin is mid-plead when they get a call out to a haunting and there, covered in ectoplasm, she once again becomes a ghost hunter. The three are joined by a dopey but beautiful receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) and then by Patty (Leslie Jones) and together they start to work out why there is a strange increase in malevolent hauntings in New York.

The dynamic works, director Paul Feig made Bridesmaids with Wiig and McCarthy, and writers Feig and Kate Dippold have included so many one-liners it's hard to catch them all. There is plenty of homage to the original and lots of cameos, among them one from Andy Garcia who is enjoyable as the mayor who cannot allow the Ghostbusters to be acknowledged, his assistant (Cecily Strong) is better.

It's worth staying for the end credits; and do you know the reason the original doesn't get shown much? It has too much smoking in it. 4 Stars

Aine O'Connor

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