MOM & ME (USA/PG/77mins)
Directed by Ken Wardrop
THE PLOT: Heading to Oklahoma – recently voted the manliest state in the US – Irish documentary filmmaker Ken Wardrop sets about talking with middle-aged sons and their mums. With a radio DJ Joe Cristiano offering up a phone-in for stories about mothers, we get to meet a variety of characters, from cowboys to preachers, from the incarcerated to the constantly elated. Most talk of an undying love – one or two speak of darker, more troubled relationships with the person who brought them into this world….
THE VERDICT: For Irish filmmaker Ken Wardrop, the matriarch is definitely a major influence. His very first short, in 2004, was the award-winning ‘Undressing Mother’. His breakthrough feature was 2009’s ‘His & Hers’, which took 70 women from Ireland’s midlands, and let them wax lyrical about the boys and men in their lives.
Before Wardrop’s latest offering gets underway, we get a quote from Oscar Wilde. “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” Take that, Principal Skinner. How ya like them apples, Norman Bates?
The man has a point, of course, and so does Wardrop – although, as usual, he lets his subjects do all the talking here.
An ambitious undertaking that doesn’t always overcome its artificial radioshow construct, ‘Mom & Me’ is surprisingly sombre at times. Not everything here comes with a ukulele and a whistle on the soundtrack, and it makes for an intriguing if not always affecting watch.
Review by Paul Byrne

  • filmbuff2011

    Irish director Ken Wardrop’s follow-up to his charming, award-winning documentary His & Hers is another observational slice of life. Mom & Me is an expansion of some scenes from His & Hers, focusing on the relationship between men and their mothers. There’s a twist though.

    Beginning with a wry, spot-on quote from Oscar Wilde, we find ourselves in Oklahoma, apparently the manliest state in the US (this reviewer would have thought Texas). Framed through the narrative of radio talk show host Joe Cristiano, he reflects on memories of his own late mother and whether Oklahoma really deserves its manliest state badge. Various men from different ages and backgrounds ‘call’ Joe up and tell them stories about their mothers. There are Iraq war veterans, cowboy preachers, prisoners, lost souls and ordinary joes who sit at home and talk about their mother, sometimes with her there. Through all these disparate voices, we find a common need for a mother’s love and attention…

    A self-confessed momma’s boy, Wardrop is to be congratulated for trying something different for his second feature. It would have perhaps been too easy to drop a camera in on the Irish midlands and focus on those tough-love Irish mammies. Instead, the move to the heartland of America poses different questions about the often dysfunctional nature of American families. At one point, Joe relates that he doesn’t recall his own mother hugging him. It may have happened, but he sadly doesn’t remember. Another, more tragic, man relates how he nearly hit his mother after she went after him. But there are also the heart-warming stories about growing up and how the nature of mother-son relationships change over time. Wardrop’s invisible camera captures the raw honesty of what these men are saying, without any audience manipulation.

    It doesn’t always work though. The editing is scattershot, focusing on perhaps too many men and their mothers, even over a short 78 minutes. More focus on the really interesting stories, like the soulful sixtysomething man looking after his dying mother, would have resulted in more impact. It’s just the nature of the film, but there are Americanisms here too which can be hard to swallow from a European perspective. One young man relates how he can’t understand why his mom can’t share his love of guns. All this while an assault rifle lies on the kitchen table, as if he wanted a gun-toting mom to protect herself from intruders. Err… OK. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but this reviewer didn’t quite get all the love the film is getting from critics. However, Mom & Me certainly does have its moments and its heart is in the right place. ***

  • emerb

    Irish Director Ken Wardrop brings us a creative and compelling documentary, “Mom & Me”, which chronicles the relationship between a number of mothers and their sons. Just like his 2009 debut film, “His & Hers”, he opens with an insightful quote that sums up the message at the core of the film, this time an Oscar Wilde
    quote, “All women become their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” The setting for “Mom & Me” is Oklahoma city which was recently designated as “the manliest city in the United States”. Wardrop elicits warm and frank commentaries form a wide variety of men, each of whom has vastly different relationships with their mothers but yet each story is interesting and uniquely charming.

    Radio show personality Joe Cristiano provides the framing for the film and this device works very well. He reflects on the fact that despite their apparent “manliness”, men sincerely love their mothers. With Mother’s Day approaching, he asks men to call in and discuss their mothers on air and this allows us to glimpse the lives of several men and how they feel about their mothers. In some cases, they sit and talk with one another, or else the sons call the radio show to
    talk about their mothers. Undoubtedly some pairs seem more intriguing than
    others but I couldn’t help but feel interested in hearing about each individual tale and for me, each relationship depicted is both touching and involving. We don’t get much information about the identities of these men and mothers, only the information they choose to share. However, we meet all sorts of characters from a variety of backgrounds. Some of the relationships are troubled, some are tender and some are humorous. We meet a drug addict in prison, a teenage athlete suffering from spina bifida, a gun-obsessed Iraq war veteran, an old cowboy, a prairie preacher, a chubby unmarried fellow whose mother wants grandchildren and even a lawyer whose cat lady mother has already hired a choreographer for her funeral! The mothers and sons ride horses, shoot guns and discuss their feelings for one another. On the whole the mothers are great, some are a bit wacky, some demanding and some have a difficult time relating
    to their sons but it’s such a joy to watch and listen to them all. The story that appealed to me the most was one 63 year old man who has an ancient mother who smokes, watches football and launches into a victory chant when she beats her son at chess. She even insists he takes her to a casino so she can try her luck on the slot machines.

    “Mom & Me” is a warm and touching film, showing a vulnerable side to masculinity that we don’t often see. If I had one criticism, it’s that, at 77 minutes, it’s too short and we don’t get a chance for a proper insight into each relationship. Personally, I’d have welcomed a bit more time with all these interesting characters. I really enjoyed this little charmer of a film, it’s a seamless documentary which demonstrates the heartfelt connection felt between mothers and their sons. It will hit home with everyone who has ever had any form of maternal relationship and is sure to bring many a son closer to their mother, perhaps even further devastating those who have lost theirs. It ends on a surprisingly dramatic note and for me, that ending comes too soon.