Mother And Son review: A family search for a better life

Mother And Son
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The leading trio shine in Mother And Son, but this family drama provides only a brief view into its character’s lives – here’s our review.

The mother and son[s] of this particular film’s title are Rose (Annabelle Lengronne) and her sons Jean and Ernest. Starting in the 1980s, with the trio arriving in Paris having left the Ivory Coast in search of a better life, the film follows them over the course of 20 years. We witness all manner of trials and tribulations, each one taking a turn under the lens as we focus on their individual confusions and struggles, bound together yet falling apart.

It’s compelling in principle, a story about immigration, single motherhood and generational trauma as we follow all three characters, who make complicated decisions and mistakes. So much happens within those years that would undoubtedly affect a family with these experiences.

It’s unfortunate, then, that the film doesn’t quite meet this potential. Covering the experience of three people over three decades, in just shy of two hours, is no mean feat. The chosen storytelling style does itself no favours in how it approaches this difficult task.

Utilising elision and time skips, the amount of time undefined, we remain voyeurs as opposed to companions to their respective struggles. Rose’s struggle to find love and acceptance, the intense pressures Jean experiences having to act older than his years and Ernest’s unspoken yearning for stability. These are just some of the narratives we’re tentatively aware of, yet never get the development to warrant emotional investment. They’re chronological scattershot moments in time, scrapbook memories we need to the connect the dots between.

It’s a lot of work for the viewer to find meaning in the listless, sedate plotting, which is even more unfortunate considering the stellar performances within it. Lengronne is a charismatic hurricane, careening from one moment to another. Her love for her sons is apparent in her words – if not always her actions. Stéphane Bak, as the 19-year-old Jean, is heartbreaking in how weighed down he is by the life he didn’t get to choose. Kenzo Sambin, as 13-year-old Ernest, goes on a summer vacation with family friends that feels ripe for an entire movie of its own.

Instead, we’re left with a sketched out version of three lives that never commits to the profound depth offered by its subject matter.

Mother And Son is in cinemas on 30th June.

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