Me Myself and Mum: Boy or Girl?
by Fabien Lemercier
- Guillaume Gallienne brilliantly accomplishes the cinematographic adaptation of his play, a very amusing work, moving and subtle, about sexual identity
"I learned all the sighs, all the breaths that made my heart beat in unison with all women.” Guillaume is a young man living in the vast Parisian residence of a family from the upper echelons of the bourgeoisie. His very good education, his effeminate delicacy and his fusional love for his mother categorize him, in the eyes of those close to him, as a homosexual (a word which does not come easily to people in his social group). But it is mostly his moonstruck, offbeat personality and his mishaps as he questions his sexual identity that give Guillaume Gallienne the opportunity to brilliantly adapt his play, Me Myself and Mum [+see also:
film profile], with great cinematographic creativity, devastating humour and a moving tone.
Also playing the main role in the film that brought tears of laughter to the Directors' Fortnight at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, the neo-filmmaker pulled off the feat of creating an original comedy which is very accessible to the general public and focuses on a subject currently being widely discussed in France and which has often been handled in cinema from more dramatic and committed angles. A highly amusing form of pedagogy which brings Gallienne, with his very first shot, into the line-up of the best comics who have ever explored social questions on the big screen.
Holidays in Spain where he learns to dance the flamenco (“You dance like a girl, you look like a girl”), dorms at the Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes boarding school where homophobia pervades the atmosphere, psychologists’ practices, a boarding school in England (“Apart from cricket, rowing and rugby, it was great”), bluffing his way out of military service, a cure in Bavaria with sports massages and colon cleansing (which teaches him a thing or two thanks to a hose wielded by Diane Kruger…)… Guillaume goes from one adventure to the next, all hilarious and polished by the more distanced view of the narrator-protagonist who tells his own tale from a stage in a theatre. But it is at the heart of the family that most of the plot is played out, with a mother (Gallienne himself in an exceptional double role) whose very strong character hides a tacit understanding, an appalled father (André Marcon) ("He definitely wants me to do boys' stuff”) and two brothers who laugh at him. Adapting himself as well as he can to the paternal imperatives (“Dressing up as a girl with boy’s clothes isn’t easy”), Guillaume the dreamer exults as he observes and imitates women, first his mother (his voice even manages to fool his own family), then his aunts and finally all women whose detailed gestures and posture he absorbs with enthusiastic attention. A kind of grown-up child who dresses up as Sissi in his room, though he does not verbalise anything and it is only after his first heartbreak that the word is finally uttered by his mother: “You see what I mean? Boys who like to act like girls, homosexuals, queers”. But Guillaume feels like a girl who would be attracted to a boy. Following his aunt’s advice (“As long as you haven’t tried, you won’t be able to know”), he attempts to sleep with men, but he first has to face his fears and learn to trust the animal inside him to discover his true sexual identity.
Guillaume Gallienne easily manages to extricate himself from the inevitably slightly theatrical template of the film thanks to very fluid backs-and-forths between flashbacks in the life of his hero and the same character telling his story on stage in a one-man-show. By using visions of his mother as a lapidary commentator in the midst of scenes that have nothing to do with her, he skilfully resolves the issues linked to voice-over self-centered narratives. His sharp wit and exceptional sense of self-deprecation do the rest, without however forgetting an emotional tenderness which gives Me Myself and Mum the stamp of a work that might also make you shed a tear in the midst of peals of laughter.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.