FestivalsFilmReview

A Mother’s Love – MOM Film Fest 2022

Reviewer: Jane Darcy

Writers and Directors: Melissa Pinsly, Catherine Cobb Ryan, Faith Elizabeth, Laura Lamb, Shaunic Stanford, Sharon Coetzer

As part of the MOM Festival, showcasing short films with parents at the helm, the section A Mother’s Love has films mainly about pregnancy, childbirth and women’s first experiences of motherhood.

The Small Hours, written and directed by Melissa Pinsly, credits Sigi Ravet with having ‘conceived’ the film – a comic nod to the fact that Ravet plays herself when 8 months pregnant. It’s a lighthearted comedy about a young woman’s experiences. We see Lilah using a succession of home-pregnancy testing kits, before becoming pregnant. Unable to sleep, she wakes up her husband with urgent requests to discuss baby names while he falls back asleep. There’s the usual stuff about morning sickness, food cravings, and sessions of emotional weeping. She watches TV and eats junk food, awaking with popcorn in her hair. She orders a cot and decorates the nursery. The lighting throughout is poor and it’s all very white, very middle class and not saying anything new. The only nice bit of astringency is when it suddenly dawns on her: ‘It’s real – fuck!’

Two of the films focus on miscarriage. Season of Passage, written and directed by Catherine Cobb Ryan who plays the lead role, ends with links to organisations that help sufferers. It’s a worthy cause, but the film itself, set in affluent West Village, is smug and sentimental. A glossy mother of a twelve-year-old son is pregnant again. “I really want this baby,” she tells her husband, misty eyed. The film uncritically endorses the idea of the perfect a stay-at-home mother who behaves adorably with every toddler with whom she comes into contact.  But why the Halloween setting, other than its photogenic properties?  Cate lovingly decorates the house for the occasion before dressing up to join her son for trick or treating. It is here her miscarriage starts and there are surprisingly gory close-ups of what ensues. But she’s soon back, immaculately groomed, apologising to her husband for having lost the baby. Her sense of worthlessness highlights one of the possible responses to miscarriage, but insight can’t be tracked back into the film.

In contrast is stand out entry, My Baby Cries, written, directed and produced by Faith Elizabeth. Sara stands weeping in the shower, water stained pink suggesting she is miscarrying. We next see her in bed, feigning sleep beside her partner, Abe. A strained silence divides them. We think we know what has happened. But then we hear the cries of a newborn baby, and spot the pram in the hall. The lighting turns warm and there is Sara, her face a picture of rapture, feeding the child. The disjunction is powerful. What exactly has happened? The mystery hooks us and its satisfying resolution packs a punch. This is excellent story telling, with strong acting from Faith Elizabeth as Sara and Oliver Asante as the tender Abe. The sound design contributes strongly to the this, with Gaby Ambler’s touching music contrasting with the film’s long silences. Benjamin Thompson’s unshowy cinematography gives the film additional depth. A little masterpiece.

The Best Time and A Life Inside both consider post-natal depression. The Best Time is a wooden piece, with stilted dialogue between the depressed mother Sydney and her cardboard cut-out of a partner, Derrick, who fails to understand her growing despair, pressurizing her to get back in shape. The subject is an important one, but this melodramatic treatment does it no favours. In contrast, A Life Inside, with a running time of just 6.43, is a taut narrative about childbirth during the pandemic. We see Carrie (Laura Lamb) and Mark (Tom Ashley) happily preparing for the baby. But when the time comes, Carrie is forced to give birth alone in hospital while Mark waits tensely in the car. He has to work from home, where we see him later, torn between work’s immediate demands and the needs of Carrie and the baby. The dialogue is taut and realistic, the scenes divided by short verbatim statements taken from conversations with women who experienced this situation. A Life Inside, written by Lamb and directed by Nicole Rixon, is a powerful testimony to one kind of pandemic-related suffering.

Secret Recipe doesn’t comfortably fit the category of A Mother’s Love. It’s a nice enough little confection about an Italian American woman restaurateur who needs to recreate her mother’s special Torta della Nonna for her mother’s funeral. Tessa Jubber is glamorous but unconvincing as a cook who learns a lesson about a mother’s love. It is glossily pretty in a way that suggests it’s an extended confectionary advert.

The MOM Film Fest 2022 runs from 19-21 August.

The Reviews Hub Score:

A tough category

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