Dir: Azazel Jacobs. US. 2008. 94 mins.
Azazel Jacobs' highly personal Momma's Man was a major discovery at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Artfully tracking the internal breakdown of a thirtysomething man, the film is both lyrical in its near wordless storytelling and humorous in its warm observation of human behaviour. Bound to achieve festival bookings beyond Sundance and Rotterdam, the film will bring international attention to the talent of Jacobs whose two previous features Nobody Needs To Know and The Good Times Kid have a small but loyal following among critics and audiences.
European arthouse distributors might take a chance on the film, assured of strong critical response and publicity to be generated from the unusual circumstances of the film's production which are that the film-maker's parents play the lead character's parents and that the principal location is their lower Manhattan loft.
The story is a simple one. After visiting his parents for a holiday in New York, Mikey (beautifully played by Matt Boren) sets off to the airport to be reunited with his wife and newborn baby in California and return to his boring job. But drawn like a magnet back to his ageing parents, he doesn't board the plane, instead returning to their loft to his childhood room for another day or so. He tells his wife (Varon) that the flight was cancelled and that he will come home the next day, but each day he makes up different excuses as to why he is delayed on the east coast.
Sorting through old letters and songs he wrote when he was a teenager, he looks up an old girlfriend (Hutchins) and an old friend who has just got out of prison (Arclilesi, a non-actor and friend of Jacobs who himself was recently released from prison) searching to realise some of his childhood nostalgia. As his parents become increasingly bemused and then worried at his procrastination and his wife desperate, Mikey cocoons himself inside the apartment and becomes so insulated that he can't actually leave the building.
The Jacobs' loft is a marvellous stage for the gentle drama. Piles of boxes, storage containers and bric-a-brac, all carefully organized and positioned, create rooms and corridors. In every corner is a mechanical toy created by Mikey's father and most nights, they watch one of his trippy films projected in the dark.
Ken Jacobs is in fact an avant garde film-maker of some renown and Flo Jacobs is an artist in her own right and one of her husband's collaborators. While their acting skills are raw, they represent a warm presence in the film which makes Mikey's descent into childhood all the more plausible. Flo Jacobs is quietly hilarious as the over-doting mother constantly offering her son tea, coffee or something to eat. 'Can I get you something'' becomes her persistent refrain.
The film also taps into the zeitgeist, in that it looks at an adult character abandoning the responsibilities of family and job to return to childhood freedom in the bosom of his parents. There is added poignancy to the situation because his parents are getting older and won't be around for much longer to shelter him.
Artists Public Domain
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