Directed by Shelly Love. Starring Bronagh Gallagher, Lori Petticrew, Mary Moulds, Dan Gordon.
The Plot: Boozy, middle-aged Pamela (Bronagh Gallagher) works part-time in a Derry bakery. She’s viewed with disdain by her teenage daughter Allegra (Lori Petticrew), who is tired of her mother’s immature antics. When Pamela has a one-night stand with a younger fella, she finds out that she has a bun of a very different kind in the oven. This is much to the dismay of Allegra, who is going through her own issues with bullying in school and isn’t able for more embarrassment. Through thick and thin though, this mother and daughter team will learn to cope with their situation through tears, laughter and tears of laughter…
The Verdict: A Bump Along The Way is an ideal title for this Northern Irish film about an unplanned and late-in-life pregnancy. Or as a doctor describes it, ‘a geriatric pregnancy’. It’s a gentle, heartfelt domestic comedy-drama which flips the well-worn story of a teenager becoming pregnant and instead has the aging mother becoming pregnant unexpectedly. This makes for an amusing comedic scenario and there are plenty of laughs to back it up, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to sustain a film. There has to be something serious underneath too, about a mother and daughter team learning to cope with a new arrival in their family. It’s a delicate balancing act, to get the right tone and that very Irish sense of humour about laughing at life’s curveballs.
It’s a film of firsts – first time screenwriter Tess McGowan, first-time director Shelly Love and the feature debut of Lori Petticrew, as the more mature and put-upon Allegra. Ostensibly, that makes for a risky prospect all round. Go too much in either the comedy or the drama delivery and the inexperience in front of and behind the camera will become apparent. However, those fears can be mostly laid to rest. There’s a quiet confidence about this film which deftly handles the changing relationship between Pamela and Allegra. If anything, it gradually improves even through adversity (the father doesn’t want anything to do with the child). Both characters should hopefully come out of this story as better people, making the best out of an unexpected situation. There’s nothing here that can’t be solved with a chat and a cup of tea. That’s what should resonate with audiences, that gently curving character arc that shows proper character development. For a group of first-timers, it’s an assured feature debut.
We really should see more of Bronagh Gallagher. The former Commitments actor is affecting as Pamela, both in her sense of humour about her situation and her motherly love for Allegra. She holds the screen with a sturdy reliability, making Pamela a flawed but basically good woman who has a dry sense of humour. It’s that humour that rings true, along with the dramatic beats of a crisis that is lessened through these characters just wearily adapting to change. Petticrew makes an impressive screen debut, bouncing off Galllagher’s cues and delivering a credible mother / daughter relationship. A mis-step is made in dealing with the father of the child, who comes across as the least mature and responsible character. Just when it looks like he might be brought properly into the story, Love loses interest and instead moves the focus back to Pamela and Allegra as if nothing had happened. It’s a forgivable narrative blunder when so much else works in the film, especially the fine acting from Gallagher. A Bump Along The Way is a wee bundle of joy and a delightful delivery to cuddle up to on a cold autumn night.