The folks at indie distributor Uncork'd Entertainment have uncovered quite the gem with Ken Wardrop's delightful documentary Mom and Me, which may very well be the most perfect cinematic Mother's Day present you're ever going to find. Winner of Best Documentary at last year's Cleveland International Film Festival, Mom & Me weaves a warm and wonderful portrait of a small group of men and the relationships they maintain with their mothers.
While a film such as Mom and Me could go wildly wrong, Mom and Me does just about everything right in showing the more vulnerable side of masculinity not often captured for the big screen. Wardrop, an award-winning director from Ireland, traveled all the way to Oklahoma, where Oklahoma City had been recently been named "America's Manliest City," and centers the film around a local radio broadcaster named Joe Cristiano and his planned Mother's Day special having men call in to share the stories of their mothers.
There's an undeniable sweetness in Mom and Me, though it's a well earned sweetness grounded in the harsh realities of life and relationships and disappointments. While Cristiano's radio show hosts the stories, Wardrop goes even more intimately in their lives by interspersing live interviews throughout the film.
The stories that unfold are incredibly diverse and it's difficult to fathom at least one not hitting home for just about every viewer. I found myself most touched by the story of a young man with spina bifida, my own birth defect, and his own drive for independence alongside a mother who is gently protective and aware that his cognitive challenges create an extra layer of vulnerability for him.
Yet, that was just one story and, in all honesty, it was one of the more brief ones.
Mom and Me is bathed in a warmth and sincerity that permeates virtually every moment of the film thanks to Wardrop's immersive approach to the film. This approach, even when wrapped around the occasional interview that feels a tad more staged, feels honest and makes the film's final third particularly emotionally resonant as themes of Alzheimer's, drug addiction, incarceration and the ups and downs of human relationships all rise to the surface and, in some ways, rear their ugly heads.
Mom and Me is sentimental without being schmaltzy, John E.R. Hardy and Benjamin Talbott's original music infusing the film with a sort of narrative companion that washes over you as the stories unfold. The choice to center much of the film around Cristiano is also a stroke of genius, Cristiano's segments often serving as a transition from one story to the next while also revealing more and more about the quietly humble Cristiano.
At times sweet and funny and at other times quietly heartwrenching, Mom and Me is a definite gem of a film that will be released both theatrically and on VOD on May 5th. It's the kind of film you want to sit around and watch with your mother or mother of choice and it's the kind of film that will make you remember and appreciate both the joys and the sorrows along the life journey. For more information on the film, visit the Uncork'd Entertainment website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic