Writer-director Alberto Sciamma attacks his piece with energetic abandon, ensuring that this high concept comedy whips past at a sprightly pace, never allowing us to get bored. The cinematography by Fabio Paolucci is also sterling and endlessly inventive, which again valiantly manages to maintain our interest despite the film’s not inconsiderable flaws.
Tommy French embraces his role of the put-upon Ron with gusto and impressive naturalism. Unfortunately the humour is too broad to put his performance to good use, and while technically impressive, he’s lumbered with a character so spectacularly unlikable that it is impossible, even in moments of pathos and vulnerability (of which, thanks to Sciamma’s swift plotting, there are frustratingly few) to invest one iota in his plight. The same goes double for his mother, realised with repellent relish by Kierston Wareing.
To say this undoes the film would be an understatement. Ron and Olga embody the very worst aspects of humanity; boorish, obnoxious, abrasive, arrogant, and impressively loud. Why we would want to spend ninety minutes in their company is a mystery which is not illuminated as the film progresses. There is no redemption, only one-note animosity. In the hands of a different writer or pair of actors there might be a nihilistic comic delight in these twin grotesques, but here they are merely exhausting. When the sometimes deafening score overwhelms their incessant arguing it is, frankly, a welcome respite.
If you can get past this and engage meaningfully with the central couple and the admittedly inventive plot, it might be possible to appreciate this film as an undemanding bit of quasi-comic diversion. But even here there are roadblocks, as inconsistencies in the dialogue loom large, and it slowly becomes horribly clear that pretty much every supporting character in this film is more interesting than the leads, and belongs to a more interesting film. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the cases of Aida Folch’s feline karaoke queen Paloma – her effortless screen presence and unforced honesty elevating every scene she’s in – and the French cast, who probably come off best out of everyone, an eight-year-old child and an elderly restaurant manager landing the film’s two laughs. There is also a particularly grating sequence featuring laudable work from Gabriel Andreu as a Spanish doctor. If I see a more justifiable violation of the Hippocratic Oath in a film this year, I shall be very surprised.
'I Love My Mum' is perhaps best enjoyed (like so much other material in this area, with a truly perverse pleasure) as an allegory for Britain’s current relationship with the EU. The Brits here are adrift and scared, frequently confrontational, aggressive or just plain impatient with the Europeans (who are for the most part entirely reasonable and genuinely trying to help them), and constantly scuppering themselves with their own blinkered infighting. With this reading, the film ascends to a bitingly perceptive satire, and the very last beat is absolutely perfect on about three distinct levels. I supremely hope this is what Sciamma had in mind, otherwise the journey on which he has taken us, like that of his lead characters, seems distressingly pointless.