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The Crack Magazine

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Mother and Son

Director: Léonor Serraille

Stars: Annabelle Lengronne, Stéphane Bak, Ahmed Sylla, Milan Doucansi, Sidy Fofana, Thibaut Evrard

Initially, this immigrant tale feels like a departure from Serraille’s debut, the sparkling comedy drama ‘Jeune Femme’, but it shares the earlier film’s feel for character detail and telling moments. Spanning twenty years and told in three chapters, each focusing on one of the characters, it begins with the arrival in Paris from Abijan of young mother Rose (the luminous Lengronne) and her two boys, the ten-year-old Jean (Fofana) and five-year-old Ernest (Doucansi). The family move into a small apartment with relatives and Rose takes a job as a hotel maid. A committed and doting mother, Rose resents the judgements of her relatives when she goes out in the evening to meet men. When she hooks up with Thierry (Evrard), a white man who invites her and the boys to move to Rouen with him, she jumps at the idea, keen to get away from the oppressive and cramped apartment. The picture jumps forward where the troubled, restless eighteen-year-old Jean (Bak), who has evidently taken to heart his mother’s constant advice to her children to hide their emotions, is struggling to find his place in the world and relate to his white middle class girlfriend. In the third sequence, we catch up with the fully-grown, seemingly more easy-going brother Ernest (Sylla). Serraille eschews sentimentalism in an unvarnished and frank exploration of the effects of immigration and assimilation on different generations, and how time and experience conspire to push them apart, the latter beautifully illustrated in the closing exchange between the no-nonsense Rose and the sensitive Ernest. The script also exhibits a keen sense of the randomness of real life, such as the bizarre sequence when the aristocratic owner of the hotel where Rose works throws a party at his country estate and invites the employees to go shooting.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter at @DWill_Crackfilm

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