Photo: ‘Dear Mother’
As Orson Welles once drunkenly said, “Ahhh, the French”, in an outtake for a wine commercial, this is how I felt when first approaching in watching yet another French film. Typically, I will annually watch a film from France; and I’ve been doing so ever since I was fifteen years old and first fell in love with Cinema. The French New Wave in the 1960s broke the rules of Cinema and influenced the way we’d create future films; which was the catalyst to my love for French films in the first place.
There’s something rather magnificent about the way the storylines in French films play out, along with how cinematically beautiful each of their movies is. In short, France has a knack for beautifully telling a story, both writing-wise and visually. Movies like ‘Amélie’, ‘Mood Indigo’, and ‘My Life as a Zucchini’ are great examples of this.
However, what I want to focus on in this review isn’t how wonderful French films are (even though I could talk about it all day), but rather how simply comedic and absurd Netflix’s new film ‘Dear Mother’ truly is.
Directed by Laurent Lafitte, ‘Dear Mother’ follows Jean-Louis Bordier (Laurent Lafitte) whose heart suddenly stops beating one day. He can still walk and talk, but he only has three days before he will meet his imminent death. To prevent this, Jean-Louis must confront his Oedipal issues by asking his mother a delicate question that many would never even think to ask. And what is that question, you may be wondering? Well, answering that would just make the surprise even less fun. You could look it up, but I highly recommend watching ‘Dear Mother’ itself and letting the film shock you when everything has built up to its reveal.
First things first, this film isn’t for those who embrace the weird and odd-balls of the Cinema world. There are so many aspects within the writing of ‘Dear Mother’ that is overshadowed by its scenic and gorgeous cinematography. Despite all that’s going on, you won’t even fully comprehend what you’re watching until even after the credits roll; which, hats off to its cinematic ending, I typically don’t stay to watch all the credits, but this time was definitely an exception.
This is also thanks to the actors, whose performances make the jokes land perfectly in an odd way where you will laugh after the second it’s said and make you go “Oh! Haha, nice”; which I know is weird to say, but I feel as though that’s what makes this film so absurd in such a charming way. Coupled with the actors’ performances is also how they embrace the strangeness of everything, and they dive deep into their characters. Despite how much Jean-Louis doesn’t want to ask his mother the delicate question, his wife Valérie (Karin Viard) and best friend Michel (Vincent Macaigne) want to help him (even though they find the question odd as well); it overall somehow makes the audience potentially feel somewhat sympathetic towards the characters.
Dear Sublime Writing Within A Beautiful World
As I mentioned above, the writing coupled with the cinematography in this film is incredible. The way the film is set up to have little exposition and nearly right away into the conflict of the story feels so wonderful, and it was perfect for my ADHD brain to quickly get invested in the story. While the runtime isn’t super long, the story is full of so much information that’s easy to take in that you’ll feel like you’ve watched an entire book. With that said, there isn’t a dull moment in the film either; everything is so quick and full of so many twists and turns that it would be rather hard to get bored of the story.
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All of these elements that make the film so fantastic is truly thanks to the directing from Laurent Lafitte, paired along with the writer, Sébastien Thiery, and the cinematographer, Axel Cosnefroy. It’s apparent from watching ‘Dear Mother’ that the trio worked hard together to be able to create one big wondrous world to dive ourselves into. Comedies that have a dramatic tone majority of the time, ultimately being called light comedy, aren’t really easy to land jokes in. But, of course, ‘Dear Mother’ becomes a deviation from this.
Admirably, as an aspiring screenwriter, I entirely took in the story from this film. I’ve been inspired by embracing the weirdness and absurdity that I can take lengths to with comedy writing, and how developing a story around two simple elements can evolve a fun and thrilling story. And, as I also mentioned before, ‘Dear Mother’ feels as though it wouldn’t be for those that don’t typically embrace weird films; but, maybe (possibly) this film could be a turning point for those individuals at the same time.
Dear Finales – ‘Dear Mother’
I (obviously) won’t spoil the ending of ‘Dear Mother’ for all of you, but it’s with complete confidence that I say that you’ll absolutely want to stick around until the ending of the film. Everything explodes into one big bomb of a mixture of closure and (oddly) a happy ending for Jean-Louis. Interestingly, you don’t see this ending coming even though you get a strong idea in the mid-point of the film of how this story could potentially end. I found the intensity of everything, coupled with a melodic score, to make the ending feel exciting. Ultimately, once the credits roll, it all feels concluded and you’re no longer left with any questions; even though the weirdness of it all will make you be wondering to yourself about what you’ve just watched.
In the end, I’m glad that ‘Dear Mother’ was my annual French film for this year. There’s so much that feels unexpected about 2022, and I find that the strange unexpected within this movie goes along perfectly with that feeling. It’s obvious that so much love was put into this film, and it rightfully deserved a place in the official selection of Festival de Cannes 2020.
If you decide to watch this film, and I really hope you do, that you thoroughly enjoy it as much as I did. It makes me want to watch it all over again and experience that pondering feeling of what exactly is going on that just makes me love French Cinema even more than before. Comedy is so subjective, but if you’re into weird movies like me, you’ll definitely put this film on your list of favorites.
By Leah Donato
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