A BUMP ALONG THE WAY (DISCOVERY)
Synopsis: With her charismatic smile and formidable wit, Pamela (Bronagh Gallagher) knows how to have a good time — and she's not about to let a little thing like middle age stop her. The night of her 44th birthday, Pamela has it off in a van with a stranger 20 years her junior. Her teenage daughter Allegra (Lola Petticrew) is appalled to find her mum hungover at breakfast the next morning, her outrage indicative of the differences between them. While Pamela's content to pass her days working at a bakery and her nights painting the town red with her pal Sinead (Mary Moulds), Allegra focuses on her schoolwork, her veganism, and keeping up appearances. While Pamela attracts men with ease, Allegra can hardly speak to the cute rugby player she has a crush on... -Michèle Maheux (TIFF)
My Thoughts: What a wonderful treat! This movie was on my Long List of films to see at TIFF because I love Irish comedies and this one about a good-time 40-something, single mother who gets knocked up by a 20-something, seemed like the sort of palate cleanser that everyone needs during a film festival that has an abundance of dramas and horrors. As a Discovery film, though, I wasn’t sure how successful first-timers Shelly Love (director) and Tess McGowan (screenwriter) would be in crafting a feature film. With this introduction, however, show that they are more than capable of handling the longer format. Love’s pacing is bang on for a comedy that at its heart is dealing with a middle-aged, pregnant and divorced mum who had her first child at a young and a teenage girl trying to rise above her broken family status, her flighty mother, and her school mates.
With such a plot, the film could have been as ephemeral as cotton candy, but there are notes of reality in the mother-daughter relationship, and in the women’s individual story lines that bear consideration. Abortion isn’t legal in Ireland, so Pamela must deal with the fact that her baby’s parentage will be made public because the father lives in the same town. This visible symbol of her mother’s sexuality, shames Allegra at school and exacerbates the usual embarrassment teenagers feel about their parent. McGowan’s screenplay resonates with truth at every level: from the exchanges between Allegra and Pamela and Allegra’s awkwardness with her schoolmates to the intimately honest and funny dialogue between Pamela and her bestie, Sinead.
Love has talented actors to work with, especially lead actress Bronagh Gallagher, who imbues her character Pamela with such joie de vivre that you want to raise a pint with her (and, of course, Sinaed.) I also appreciate how Love’s camera simply and effectively reveals Allegra’s state of mind through shots of her school shoes.