Writers: Liz Samuels, Christina Wren, Demetrius Wren, Karisa Bruin, Julia Kelly, Caitlin Brodnick, Bianca Jamotte, Meredith Masony, Gary O. Bennett, Susan Styron
Directors: Liz Samuels, Demetrius Wren, Karisa Bruin, David Ebert, Bianca Jamotte, Jennifer Enskat, Alyssa Rallo Bennett, Susan Styron
The third selection of stories in the MOM Film Festival collection has a comedy theme, a suite of films entitled Mom’s Night Out in which the various protagonists navigate lifestyle changes and developments with humour. Including episodes from wider series of works, the broad-ranging approach of Block 3 takes in everything from the kooky to heightened reality-show style narratives about parenting.
The big entries in this group are Liz Samuel’s MOMtress a series about an actress mother, and Hicksters originally created by Christina Wren focusing on the unfolding drama for a city couple who inherit a farm, offering two episodes from each. MOMtress has more of a sitcom feel as mother Libby tries to usher her children to school while preparing for a call back. We see her undergoing an embarrassing warm-up exercise with a friend in a coffee shop before the awkward audition process, using light humour to comment on the expectations for women in the film and television industries.
Wren’s staged reality show-inspired Hicksters is more of an acquired taste with an intense sequence of events that take the farm-based family from announcing a pregnancy to a strained mother-in-law visit just before the birth. You might need to watch more than the 27-minutes on offer here to gel with the fast-talking nature of the characters, but Wren and co are interested in gendered expectations for women and how the challenges of being in a multicultural relationship will affect their child.
As with all comedy programmes there are some highs and lows across this 90-minute selection depending on the type of humour you enjoy. Karisa Bruin’s satirical Labour Relations has much to contribute on the pressures for working mothers to hide their children and continue to perform as high-powered business professionals. So, as Emogen’s pregnancy is ignored by her colleagues ahead of a major presentation Bruin’s lightweight style eventually reveals the compromises being made by everyone in the company.
Julia Kelly and Caitlin Brodnick’s Mom’s Day Off directed by David Ebert also uses its sardonic frame to explore the fantasy world of new parents as two harassed mums are given a behind the scenes beauty treatment at their local salon. Exploring the dreams scenarios elicits much of the comedy, from boxing with men to being a respected Congresswoman or just being treated like a baby themselves, this fun story helps the protagonist find more confidence in her daily life.
Other movies feel would benefit from further development. Mommy Confessions by Bianca Jamotte and Meredith Masony briefly dramatise experiences in a supermarket and on a date night that feel a little out of context, while Gary O. Bennett’s UberPOOL directed by Alyssa Rallo Bennett takes a potentially sitcom-worthy scenario in which a fractious business woman is joined by a woman in labour but fritters away the drawn-out comic potential far too quickly.
Concluding with House of Teeth by Susan Styron about a middle-aged mother with online dating disasters, Block 3 has variable success with the very different approaches sitting more uneasily side-by-side than in the drama categories. Nonetheless the work of funny women is played down far too often so dedicating a whole strand to female-led parental comedy feels progressive and a step in the right direction.
Available here until 17 August 2020