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Home: Dubai Film Festival 2008: Day 1: Momma's Man

What starts off as an almost perfunctory visit to the parents quickly manifests into a distress call for help in “Momma’s Man”, a film so called perhaps because Mikey, the man who visits New York on a routine business trip and then refuses to leave his parents abode there, really does miss his parents. Or does he? Not when he has a wife and newborn waiting for him back in California and he uses all manner of procrastination to delay making the trip back home. As a drama, the film is very low-key, but extremely attentive to detail. The first night of his return, when Mikey switches off the lights to go to sleep in his ransacked room, as the afterglow fades and we adjust to the darkness, we notice “glow-in-the-dark” stars on the walls and on his duvet. More becomes apparent as the days pile on. He brings out his carton of comic books collected ages ago, goes through old lyrics he wrote in high school, and as we watch we may be reminded of such moments from our lives.

The film sounds poignant, but it isn’t, except during brief, but key moments. Those brief situations say a lot about the relationship that Mikey has with his parents – a warm, kind, almost too considerate mother, and a father who never directly speaks to his son and chooses to use his wife as a mediator, though this never points to an acrimonious relationship because both father and son are very pleasant with each other. In the one scene where the father does speak to him, during a dinner table conversation, where most of the films dialogues occur, his words are profound, not because of what is said, but because of what they might mean to both of these men. The film never explains many of the situations and retains a surface level ambiguity, but leaves enough clues for audience interjection and the film is much better because of this. When he meets a female friend from high school for coffee one morning and as they exchange notes on life, we understand that she must have been an old flame.

Director Azazel Jacobs uses fantastic, observant camera work – spying, almost prying on his subjects. In a lesser film and perhaps with a lesser director, some of the very private things we see Mikey do would be embarrassing to watch, but in “Momma’s Man” they are crafty and revealing of a characters trait. There are moments where we think there is only one person in a room, but in fact there are others and this becomes pivotal during a scene where Mikey deletes an answering message on the family phone left by his troubled wife, without knowing that his father actually watches him. In fact, the house where most of the film is set feels like a novelty, layered warehouse and I was convinced its stockpiling of hundreds of discarded toys, books, tapes, memorabilia and general nostalgia from a life lived years ago must have been one of the draws to return home for the protagonist. It was like a storage box for the past and I felt its appeal probably as much as the inhabitants did. For all these reasons and more, “Momma’s Man” is ultimately funny, humane, honest but also intimately touching. - by Faizan Rashid [Rated 4.5 out of 5]

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