Mother And Son | Fresh Takes

Fresh takes and film reviews from new voices in film.

Sena, Gerline, Yassin, Sofia & Alex

22 Jun 23

Fresh Takes is a space for the latest generation of film lovers to share their views and opinions on some of the great films we are showing at Picturehouse cinemas. 

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Here's some Fresh Takes on MOTHER AND SON, a deeply moving tale of shifting tensions and identities of a young family after their move from the Ivory Coast to France, told from multiple perspectives.

Book now to see Mother And Son here.

See the film first at one of our Discover previews on Tuesday 27 June. Tickets on sale now!

Sena, (23)

Sena is a Spanish and Italian graduate living in South London. She has a love for writing, storytelling and films that depict diverse communities.

Sena says...

Changes throughout childhood are to be expected and are well explored on screen within the expansive coming-of-age genre. Much less frequently depicted is a woman's journey through motherhood. In Léonor Serraille's second feature film Mother and Son, she commendably presents tales of growth and regression within one immigrant family. 

In the late 1980s, Rose arrives in Paris from the Ivory Coast with her two young sons Jean and Ernest. Despite their humble beginnings in France, Rose sets ambitious goals for herself and her boys which she is unwilling to compromise for other people's expectations. Her stubbornness is initially admirable, but becomes a point of contention with those close to her. 

Mother And Son is divided into three parts, spotlighting each family member, but Annabelle Lengronne's portrayal of Rose will grab your attention in every scene she's in. She is one of the few constants in the film which spans several years. Lengronne performs wonderfully with her numerous young co-stars who in turn confidently depict the maturation of Jean and Ernest. 

As her sons grow, Rose somewhat unravels, straining the family's initially strong bond. What remains strong is their connection to music, as both Rose and Jean take over scenes with their confident and free-form dance moves, perhaps symbolising the unrestricted lives they desire. 

Although the latter moments of the film aren't as engaging as its opening third, the character-driven drama is held together by skilful performances that truthfully chronicle the breakdown of a family.

Gerline, (23)

Gerline is a filmmaker from South London whose work primarily explores the intricacies of complicated power dynamics, treading the line between intimacy and invasiveness (but truthfully, whatever story tickles her fancy).

Gerline says...

In Mother And Son, director and writer Léonor Serraille delivers an honest exploration of what family is: a rich mosaic of vibrant yet troubled personalities, eternally bound together.

This heartfelt social realist drama follows the trials and tribulations of an Ivorian family after they've emigrated to France in the late 1980s, dividing the story into the three perspectives of a mother and her two sons.

By fracturing the narrative, Serraille showcases the vitality and tension that can arise from wanting to exist as a whole, autonomous person, while simultaneously being so deeply tethered to someone else – whether that relationship is rooted in familial or romantic love.

Not only is Mother and Son tonally reminiscent of Charlotte Wells' Aftersun, but much like Paul Mescal's presence in that film, here Annabelle Lengronne's magnetic performance as matriarch Rose grounds the audience in the drama, which at times feels aimless. Yet, this freedom from cohesion perfectly encapsulates the film's sprint, celebrating individuality and interconnectedness.

Yassin, (25)

Yassin is a freelance journalist by day and dreams of being a filmmaker by night. Generally follows the adage that the more experimental a film is, the better! Follow him on Instagram at @yacinemedia.

Yassin says...

Much like the lead character in Mother and Son, this film is hard to pin down. Yes, it's a drama, but one that skips lightly over points of emotional wreckage, leaving some matters unresolved. Yet by viewing Y2K France through the prism of an Ivorian migrant family, Léeonor Serraille's second feature has an added dimension of displacement that simply cannot be ignored.

Single mother Rose (Annabelle Lengronne) moves to Paris with her two youngest sons, Jean and Ernest, in tow. Now, if Diouana – Ousmanne Sembeke's lead character from the classic 1966 film Black Girl – arrived in the Metropole under a dreamy haze of wonder and anticipation, a generation later, Rose expects nothing. Except, perhaps, a good education for her kids, and some regular thrills to complement the mundane routine of life.

Framed as a triptych in which the three characters develop, the nuanced cinematography does much to draw out the film's more tender moments. It's debatable as to which member of the trio draws the short straw here, but whether alone or alongside others, the screen is permeated with a sense of their lonely battles being fought in silence. 

Stephane Bak's impressive acting as the adult Jean manages to work both the heartstrings and camera lens, interacting with otherwise bleak surroundings in ways that feel ephemeral. It's a movie that leaves you contemplating how impulsive decisions made in the heat of hedonism or downpour of despair have lasting consequences – and not necessarily just for the person who made them.

Sofia, (25)

Sofia is a London-based film student from Costa Rica. Her interests range from animated emotional films to thrilling dramas and satirical comedies. She is always open to watching films from new regions, or directors that she has never discovered before.

Sofia says...

Léeonor Seraille's second feature tells the story of an immigrant woman who comes from the Ivory Coast to France in search for a better life with her two sons. This film is a story of family, survival, and the pressures of feeling like an outsider. 

Although this concept might seem familiar to audiences, there are many aspects of this film that make it truly distinctive. Firstly, the structure of the film is unexpected, and keeps the viewer entertained throughout. Composed of three vignettes, each from the perspective of a different family member across two decades in time, creates a narratively complex storyline, and keeps the viewer engaged as they fill the gaps in time with one detail at a time.

The cinematography is as remarkable as the structure of the film itself. Individual shots are filled with soft light, intentional colouring, and texture. 

The way in which motherhood is represented in this film is refreshing as well. The protagonist Rose, played subtly and strongly by Annabelle Lengronne, is that of a fully layered and complex woman.

She has a life outside of her children that often comes with great consequences. Her sons Jean and Ernest's ever-evolving journey from children to adulthood is also presented quite powerfully, mostly due to the very nuanced performances from supporting actors Stéphane Bak and Kenzo Zambin.

The film's ability to have us empathise with each of the main characters, whilst seeing their flaws, is truly its superpower. 

Alex, (23)

Alex is a London-based film student. Her love for movies is apparent in her taste in many genres, from rom-coms to thrillers, and she relishes the feeling of satisfaction that comes with a well-executed and satisfying ending.

Alex says...

We see Rose (Annabelle Lengronne) arriving in Paris during the 1980s, bringing her two, young sons along from the Ivory Coast. She looks both excited and fatigued, as if she has already faced numerous setbacks and isn't dazzled by European life. However, she remains young enough to have aspirations of finding joy, perhaps not through her job cleaning hotel rooms, but through the realm of romantic affection.

The portrayal of their life is unsentimental, but carries a sense of stoic anguish. It highlights the fact that the immigrant experience can either strengthen the bond between parent and child or lead to its permanent dissolution.

The structure requires viewers to repeatedly familiarise themselves with the characters' interactions. Throughout the film, we watch as Rose and her sons, Ernest (Ahmed Sylla) and Jean (Stéphane Bak), come together and come apart across 20 years, always trying to find some semblance of stability but failing. Rose struggles to find a tangible sense of belonging as she moves from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship. To make matters worse, her role as a mother is undermined as her sons drift further from her.

Overall the film represents feminine strength and resilience, whilst not glorifying motherhood. Her sons are left wondering how they can possibly find peace: what opportunities exist for them in this environment, particularly when their mother's life is unstable? Did Rose mess them up, disappoint them, let them down, or try her best, as an imperfect person who wants to show her children what it takes to survive? 

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