Mother and Son ★★★☆☆ – Glasgow Film Festival

4 mins read

A delicate insight into the struggles of starting anew. 

In her second feature film, Léonor Serraille, writes and directs an intimate drama on the reality of being an immigrant family. Inspired by her husband’s past, Mother and Son is Serraille’s attempt at showing the side of immigration that is seldom talked about.

“A family’s quest to find happiness

Split into three chapters, the picture allows each of the main characters to show their depth and complexity, giving the audience complete access to three minds that are adapting to France while mourning their homeland. 

The first chapter is dedicated to Rose (Annabelle Lengronne), a mother of four who, through bravery and sacrifice, leaves Ivory Coast and her two eldest sons behind, in the hopes of finding a better life in France for herself and her two youngest sons. 

She struggles to make peace with her life-changing decision, which gives her character a significant inner conflict between trying to be the best mother for her children and trying to find her way in the world as a sexually liberated woman. This reflects in her changing partners often and, at times, neglecting the two young boys’ needs. 

However, Lengronne’s performance is so credible that the spectator can rarely judge her parental skills (or lack thereof), as it is shown a fragile and lovable woman who is visibly doing the best she can and who deserves sympathy. 

The second chapter deals with Jean (Stèphane Bak), the eldest son who is often made to look after his younger sibling. At the age of eight, the mathematics and science prodigy is forced to balance school and homework with being a young paternal figure to Ernest, resulting in his suffering from crippling anxiety.

His desperate need to excel, combined with the absence of parental figures, leads his character to develop anger issues, ones that he is not allowed to resolve. Jean is an extremely relatable and revisited character in film history: one that had immense potential but was never given the tools to succeed. 

And lastly, Ernest (Ahmed Sylla), the youngest brother, who was shielded and looked after the most, concludes the picture with his success story. 

Feeling more French than Ivorian, Ernest is the sole member of the family to not overtly deal with the difficulties of immigration and integration. However, absorbing the troubling circumstances of his childhood, he still feels the weight of his family’s suffering, leading to feelings of guilt. 

Mother and Son reclaims a narrative that society frowns upon, giving the audience a chance to understand the struggles of settling in a new country, one that judges immigrants based on skin colour and seldom provides them with the warmth and support they deserve. 

Screened as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2023. Brig’s coverage of the festival can be found here.

Featured Image Credit: Glasgow Film Festival

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