DIR: Ken Wardrop • DOP: Kate McCullough
Nestled in the heart of America’s Bible Belt, Oklahoma is an unpredictable next step for Irish filmmaker Ken Wardrop – especially since his last documentary, His and Hers, took place mainly in the plains (AKA the Irish Midlands). The subject matter of Mom and Me, however is not so much of an unpredictable step… well at least not to die-hard Wardrop fans; his inaugural short Undressing my Mother won an IFTA, and picked up awards at the Fleadh, Sundance & beyond. It’s well worth a watch, if you haven’t already seen it.
What Wardrop always manages to do fantastically, in both his dramas and docs, is forensically examine familial relationships. In this instance, the spotlight is aimed at the bond between robust American adult males and their mammies. We’re introduced to a mass of colourful characters through the local Liberty Radio Talk Show. Leaning into his mic, an older a-typical New Yorker, Joe Cristiano, eloquently laments on his own experiences and asks Oklahoma’s men to call in and discuss their own mothers on air.
This is the framing devise used to hop between themes and homes, where sons from all walks of life ‘phone in’ and share their own stories. The range of experiences and situations varies to dizzying degrees; from young disabled sons to a drug addict in prison; and from distant, strained pairs to co-dependant, cohabiting couples. There’s a fine balance of comedy, warmth, awkwardness and tragedy, which will certainly deliver some chuckles and a few moist eyeballs.
DOP Kate McCullough has outdone herself; Mom and Me’s aesthetics are striking, juxtaposing the vast Oklahoma landscape with the intimate, and at times claustrophobic, homes of the subjects. McCullough composes both movement and intimate moments comfortably and creatively. So much so, that at the premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, she won the World Cinematography Award. G’wan the Kate.
Also of note in Mom and Me is the level of intimacy achieved yet the sheer scope of the stories told within this relatively short feature. There’s so much honesty in short bursts and yet the pacing feels appropriate, pausing every so often to catch its breath in those relatable actions of doing housework or picking up mail.
Despite the comical moments and the larger-than-life personalities, Mom and Me captures the universal experience of motherly love perfectly. Those emotions and themes travel easily across the Atlantic; Wardrop once again proves that he can wheedle his way into any home and heart.
PG (See IFCO for details)
Mom and Me is released 15th July 2016