The Mother: The look of a son
by Alfonso Rivera
- After being developed at the Cannes Cinéfondation’s Atelier, the fourth film by Spaniard Alberto Morais is competing at the Montreal World Film Festival
The main characters in Alberto Morais’ films are like mini-Ulysses: they roam the land in search of their Ithaca, that perfect place that they see in their dreams, as it is a far cry from the reality they are forced to endure. The Mother [+see also:
interview: Alberto Morais
film profile] is the fourth feature by this Valladolid-born filmmaker, following the documentary Un lugar en el cine, and the fiction titles The Waves [+see also:
film profile] and The Kids from the Port [+see also:
film profile]. In 2015, the project was selected for the Cannes Cinéfondation’s Atelier, and now, the fully fledged film is taking part in the official section of the Montreal World Film Festival. After its world premiere in Canada, The Mother will reach Spanish movie theatres in November.
With a screenplay penned by the director himself, together with his writing partner Verónica García (also the executive producer) and Ignacio Gutiérrez-Solana, The Mother is a co-production with Romania and France that was shot one year ago in some rough and ready locations in and around Valencia (read more). The storyline does not deviate from the expressive gaze of Miguel (Javier Mendo, who gives a tremendous and totally believable breakout performance here), a 14-year-old boy who has had to take on the role of the adult and cornerstone of his household at such a tender age, because his mother, Carmen (Laia Marull), has fallen victim to her emotional instability, vanishing every other minute and neglecting her parental responsibilities.
With the camera permanently fixed on the neck of the quick-witted Miguel, we observe how he manages to earn a few euros, shoplift and get his mates to help him to assuage his hunger… But the social services – which in this case have started to constitute a threat to the boy’s freedom – are more than familiar with the situation in this volatile household and become something akin to the “baddy” in the film, as the kid will run away from them and try to hold his family together by any means possible.
When he is cornered by his “enemies”, Miguel heads to town to ask for help from one of his mother’s exes, but he stumbles upon the owner of a bar (Nieve de Medina, who does a fantastic job of rivalling young Mendo’s intense gaze), with whom he strikes up a relationship full of concealed emotions that are as complex as they are ambiguous – but sincere at the same time.
With his own particular style, devoid of all artifice, Morais thus allows us to accompany his main character on his physical and emotional pilgrimage. We suffer with him through exploitative child labour, violent abuse and the pressing need for affection, but the director always avoids resorting to excessive dramatic theatricality. Rather, we see all this through a mirror held up to the social realities that many children must endure, reflected here by way of the beautiful, clear and extremely expressive eyes of the lead actor, which convey fear, abandonment and solitude, as well as composure, courage and the maturity he has acquired – by force – when there is simply no alternative. He has ended up swapping roles with the person who should, in fact, be his role model, as opposed to his source of conflict.
The Mother is a production by Olivo Films (Spain) and Fundatia Teatru Contemporan (Romania), with the involvement of Alfama Films (France) and support from Eurimages, the CNC’s World Cinema Support, the Romanian CNC, the ICAA and the IVAC.
(Translated from Spanish)