In one of the first few scenes of Me, Myself and Mum a ripple of laughter rolled across the audience slowly over a period of at least a minute as people, one by one, realised that Guillaume Gallienne is not just playing a childhood version of himself but also playing the reclining figure of his mother on the bed. Unlike you often get wtih actors in drag, like Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy, Gallienne is not so much playing a caricature of his mother but embodying her from head to toe.
The reason Gallienne is playing a version of himself and his mother is that Me, Myself and Mum is an autobiographical French comedy, adapted from the comedian’s stage show, that charts his upbringing as he is treated like the girl of the family alongside two much more blokey brothers. Seeing his mother as a role model Gallienne spends his childhood trying to emulate her every mannerism and aspires to grow up to be a woman just like her. His mirroring of her is so convincing that both his grandmother and his father mistake him for their daughter and wife on occasion. Whilst his family assume Gallienne is gay he sees himself simply as being a straight female and the truth is something altogether more ordinary.
Lots of films at the festival, especially the French output, explore sexuality in a hard-hitting and emotional way but Me, Myself and Mum is unique in exploring sexuality and gender in a manner that is fun as well as touching. Fun is far too often overlooked as a key ingredient in a great film. From start to finish myself and the rest of the audience were laughing riotously in that uncontrolled manner than comes when a film is bringing you nothing but joy. There are many ways of examining the human condition and I think this fantastically funny comedy is by far my favourite way to go about it.
Writing, directing, and starring in a film about his own search for identity Gallienne has an admirable sense of humour about what could be seen as a slightly troubled upbringing. When you are laughing at Gallienne’s antics onscreen you feel confident that he is laughing right along with you. He acts his dual roles with distinction and panache and has a very considered directing style that allows the film to zip along as scene transitions are playfully and carefully thought out.
Having as it does a theme of sexuality and personal identity I think it might be too easy to dismiss Me, Myself and Mum as a film with a message that might seem a little too worthy to be enjoyable. Let me make it clear that this is by far the funniest film I have seen this year, let alone at the festival. We see Gallienne travel through Spain and England and see lovingly stylised versions of the countries through the eyes of a young Frenchman. We watch a young man tries to explore the gay scene only to be rejected at an orgy for not being Arab. We see some frankly bizarrely emotional scenes take place before a mother and son in which both are played by the same actor. This film has a lot to offer in its neat 85 minutes.
Infinitely surprising Me, Myself and Mum is an exquisite and fun piece of cinema and while it has no UK release date yet I implore you to seek it out if it ever does. The film gently teaches us not to judge anyone based on appearance whilst giving you the biggest laugh you’ve had in a good long while.