I Love My Mum **
Dir: Alberto Sciamma. With: Kierston Wareing, Tommy French, Aida Folch, Dominique Pinon. 86 mins. Cert: 15
Perhaps it says something about the film industry that where Michael Fassbender was whisked off to Hollywood in the wake of Andrea Arnold’s breakthrough Fish Tank, his equally compelling co-stars Kierston Wareing and Katie Jarvis were left behind to seek gainful employment on EastEnders’ Albert Square. Wareing, who’d worked with Ken Loach (on 2007’s It’s a Free World…) before her Arnold assignment, lands a starring role of sorts here, albeit as a castrating mother in a scattershot comedy that sets out like a hybrid of Ray Cooney farce and Channel 4 reality-show, and winds up making the dottiest contribution yet to the recent wave of migration movies. Its heart remains broadly in the right place, yet there are points where you question just where its head is at.
It opens in Tilbury, with none-more-Essex lad Ron (Tommy French) involved in another contretemps with Wareing’s blowsy Olga. The difference is this one ends with Ron crashing his car into a cargo container that – in the first of several oh-just-go-with-it contrivances – is promptly sealed up and shipped over to Morocco, where mum and son emerge bedraggled, broke and visaless. (There are weird frissons of tension as Wareing wanders the souks in dressing gown and slippers.) As the pair navigate back to the European mainland – via stolen taxi, a raft charged with African refugees, and eventually a pedalo – some of the surface eccentricities clear to reveal a familiar story: that of two antagonistic fish out of water who realise they need one another more than first thought.
There’s evidence here of how a few weeks of location shooting can open up a low-budget production, and Spanish-born indie scrabbler Alberto Sciamma (Killer Tongue, Anazapta) sporadically unleashes ideas that dig an elbow into your ribs and force out a chuckle, such as having Ron’s beachside tryst with a singing senorita interrupted by a literally incandescent Olga, dressing gown in flames. Yet the writing rarely rises above bizarro sketchiness, and if you think the deployment of those mute migrants as a plot device sounds glib, wait ‘til you see the punchline. French and Wareing make an endearing if cartoonish couple, at least: with its scenes in which the latter strides towards the Pyrenees in a pair of fringed UGGs, the film counts as one of Brexit cinema’s livelier, more eccentric footnotes.
I Love My Mum opens in selected cinemas from today.