“Me, Myself, and Mum” opens with a literal unmasking. It’s a facemask that Guillaume Gallienne washes off before taking the stage to perform his one-man show about a boy who grew up to wonder whether the person everyone decided he was is the person he really is. As he begins his story of self-discovery, we go with him into the memories – a strange space where things appear to be more like how they are remembered than how they actually were.
Gallienne is adapting his real-life stage show in “Me, Myself, and Mum,” and in true honor of the “one-man theater” experience, writes, directs, and plays both himself and (in drag) his mother. The English title may clue audiences into the comedy of his dual role in the film, but the original, French title “Les garçons et Guillaume, à table!” or “Boys and Guillaume, to the table!” speaks far more to the thematic content.
“Boys and Guillaume, to the table!” His mother can’t help but make the dinner call for Guillaume and his brothers separately. Could you? Guillame speaks in an effeminate tone and has been known to be caught with a blanket belted around his waist in place of an actual dress. Guillame is told he’s gay long before he considers whether he really is.
A quest for self-discovery leads him to a small town in Spain (where he admits that he only knows the words “casa” and “blanca”), a boarding school (where he mixes signals with one of the boys), and the worst spa in Europe (where…well, you’ll see).
As a filmmaker, Gallienne is primarily interested in how these scenes function as memories. His aloof, dominating mother appears often when no one is watching. He’s alone in the boarding school locker room and she appears from one of the bathroom stalls to speak to him. A visual cue as to the pervasive influence she’s had on his life. It’s a great, practical effect that achieves magical realism more effortlessly than similar scenes in other films that spend tens of thousands on visual effects.
As Gallienne delivers his story to the theater audience, we jump into his head to see the scenes as no audience could before. Baroque interiors, lavish costuming, and the straight-delivered drag performance all make “Me, Myself, and Mum” a colorful, funny, great time at the movies And just as some slapstick and all around goofiness take over a stretch of the narrative, Gallienne sobers the mood in a single line when expressing his trepidation for joining the army: “I went to an all boy’s boarding school…and I know what it is.”
I’ve never been put in a headspace quite like this. Sexuality comes second nature to most, but for some it’s a struggle. Something to be worked on and uncovered. And that doesn’t fit in with society’s ideas on the pacing of romantic advancement. Gallienne’s growth as a character is universally relatable to any struggle with identity.
“Me, Myself, and Mum” won the top prize, the Art Cinema Award, in the Director’s Fortnight competition at Cannes 2013, and it’s no mystery as to why. This is one of the best debut films of the decade from an unusually strong, new voice in cinema. Gallienne may only have this one story in him — it is, after all, something personal he’s been working over for years. But even if he never makes another good film, this one will stand for itself.Continue Reading Issue #14
French, English, Spanish, German
1 hr. 25 min.
Guillaume Gallienne, André Marcon, Françoise Fabian, Nanou Garcia, Diane Kruger, Reda Kateb, Götz Otto