Starring Tantoo Cardinal, Babz Chula, and Tiffany Lyndall-Knight. Rated PG. Opens Friday, May 8, at the Cinemark Tinseltown
Just in time for Mother's Day, tireless local auteur Carl Bessai serves up an exploration of that strange mix of undying love and seething resentment that is the complicated bond between Mothers&Daughters.
Watch the trailer for Mothers & Daughters.
The film was based on four months of collaborative workshops with its stars, a 10-day guerrilla shoot, and loads of ad-libbing—a marked stylistic departure from the carefully composed works of the director of Unnatural and Accidental and Normal.
On the plus side, the dramatic comedy's trio of intertwining stories unearths a range of mother-daughter tensions, and the hand-held, Dogme-like rawness gives it an emotional immediacy. Part of the feeling of familiarity comes from its vivid Vancouverness, with everything from the East End Food Co-op to the Grandview-Woodlands traffic-calming measures making appearances. On the downside, it still feels a bit like improvised acting exercises and the stories don't engage us as well as they should.
Using a fragmented approach that plays documentary-style interviews off dramatic scenes, Bessai focuses on three different relationships. Micki (Babz Chula) is a celebrity romance novelist who has always overshadowed her sullen daughter Rebecca (Camille Sullivan). Brenda (Gabrielle Rose) is an aging woman who's lost her identity to being a homemaker, which only brings her the disdain of her driven daughter Kate (Tiffany Lyndall-Knight). And Celine (Tantoo Cardinal) is a Métis woman who's lost her own child to the streets, but when she's hired to paint a house, she finds a new, maternal role with the upscale young Cynthia (Tinsel Korey).
Sometimes the relationships edge into sappiness. Micki and Rebecca's is the most involving, with Sullivan offering up a combustible mix of rage, sarcasm, and vulnerability. But Micki is a little too larger-than-life to believe, and the pair's interactions often devolve into yelling matches. Rose is a marvel to watch, as she slowly sheds her matronly shoes and suffocating pearls, falling into breakdown and then finding herself in a wry and unforgettable image of empowerment.
There are painful truths to mull over here, especially if you are a mother or daughter. You just might want to avoid taking each other to this one—not on Mother's Day, anyway.