Guillaume is not like other boys. He is not athletic, preferring to go to Spain for his summer vacation and learn Spanish instead of hiking in the Grand Canyon with his father and brothers. He spends his free time playacting empresses and princesses complete with ball gowns made from sheets and loves the trips to the salon to have his hair styled. He also bares an uncanny resemblance to his mother to the point that he’s is often mistaken for her by the housekeeper, his grandmother and even his father. Me, Myself and Mum, tells Guillaume’s story, one of a boy who cannot quite figure out where he belongs. The original French title sums this up very neatly: Les garçons et Guillaume, à table! (Boys and Guillame, Dinner!) It is not surprising, therefore that Guillaume is suffering from an identity crisis.
Me, Myself and Mum takes a unique approach to the subject of gender and sexual identity. Instead of playing up the drama and internal angst, writer/director Guillaume Gallienne explores the comedicness and absurdity of the situation. Staring as both himself and his mother (and a few others along the way), Gallienne realizes the ridiculousness of the boxes people are expected to fit in and runs with it. Guillaume is haunted by his mother as he moves through life, the voice of both doubt and reason with a healthy dose of criticism for good measure. With her by his side, Guillaume tries to reconcile his personal identity with the one that has been imposed on him by his family. A series of witty set pieces ranging from being taught how to dance by a woman in Spain to an unfortunate visit to a spa are interspersed with Guillaume on a stage, performing his one man play that the film is based upon, which builds to a lovely climax celebrating the joy of life that his mother gave to him.
It shouldn’t really work, but Gallienne has a talent for blending the comedic with the poignant so that when the two meet, it creates a synergy as opposed to a hot mess. The bulk of the film is charming, pulling laughs out of the subversion of expectations. The rest is a heartfelt love letter to his mother, who is clearly his idol and whom he aspires to be. The fact that he plays both himself and his mother is not played as a joke, instead it is a tribute to all she has done to make him the person he is today. Did she screw with his head and make his life difficult? Absolutely. But that is the nature of the parent/child relationship. Me, Myself and Mum recognizes this, finds the humour in it, and then drives it home with the realization that it is what defined Guillaume. He lived to tell the tale and for all the confusion, it taught him to learn to define himself on his own terms. And if it paved the way for a successful stage play and film, even better.
Toronto’s Inside Out Film Festival runs from May 22 – June 1. Read more Inside Out coverage.