SURVIVING MY MOTHER (Emile Gaudreault). 95 minutes. Opens Friday (November 2). Rating: NN
Like the films of Pedro Almodóvar, Surviving My Mother explores women and their interrelationships. Men don't have much to do here. But filmmaker Emile Gaudreault doesn't have Almodóvar's touch for tackling deep themes in a lighthearted way.
Ellen David stars as Clara, a Montreal housewife whose embittered, dying mother (Véronique Le Flaguais) confesses that she never got to know her family well. Out of guilt, Clara becomes obsessed with learning more about her university-age daughter, Bianca (Caroline Dhavernas), and discovers some shocking truths.
This could have been a thoughtful film about a dysfunctional family. Le Flaguais is a strong presence early on, and her death scene is handled with sensitivity. A potentially subversive subplot involves Bianca's fling with a priest whose oath of celibacy didn't work out.
But the movie's unsure whether it's a quirky comedy or a serious drama, resulting in an inconsistent tone. You're supposed to empathize with Clara in her spiritual crisis, but Steve Galluccio's unsubtle script makes her seem like an unstable flake needing hardcore psychotherapy.
One irritating visual gimmick puts text from Bianca's web-chat conversations floating in random places on the screen. It's corny, not cute.
The film won an audience award at this year's Montreal Film Festival. Weak competition or home-team advantage?