Produced by Frédéric de Goldschmidt,
Eric Dupont, Mike MacMillan
Written and Directed by Vladimir de Fontenay
Starring Imogen Poots, Callum Turner,
Callum Keith Rennie, Frank Oulton,
Karen LeBlanc, Shane Daly, Jai Jai Jones
If you like depressing indie jaunts into impoverished America, have I got a film for you. Writer director Vladimir De Fontenay takes us through a bleak chapter in the lives of Ali (Imogen Poots), her emerging delinquent son Bone (Frank Oulton) and her small time hood boyfriend Evan (Callum Turner). Ali’s desire to bring some stability to Bone’s life leads her on an uninspiring journey of senseless decisions.
Ali is a young mom trying to find a permanent roof to put over her son’s head. Evan is a small time hood with severe gaps in logic who is constantly using Bone to further his criminal ambitions.
An emerging player in the underground cock fighting world Evan has eyes on the drug trade and Bone is his ticket to the big time. As a minor who can’t be traced back to Evan, Bone is the perfect buffer between Evan’s ambitions and the eventual police presence in his life. Mix in some graphic sex, domestic violence, and terrible decision making and what you are left with is a disappointing waste of an evening.
I use the word disappointing because the talent is absolutely there. Every actor is believable and the performances are worthy despite the narrative deficiencies. Based on the timing of production what I am about to say can’t be true, but it is almost like De Fontenay saw The Florida Project, said to himself, “How can I make this more depressing and less realistic?” and this is what he came up with. Mobile Homes is designed to be a commentary on the poverty cycle but is so poorly executed (and poorly lit) that it never gets where it tries to go.
If you watch a film like Dayveon you get a sense of authenticity and depth that is sorely lacking here. When I was in my early 20’s I lived in the Mddle East for a year on a community service fellowship.
One of my responsibilities was teaching English in an elementary school in a depressed area. Every day the children would sing songs in English, even though they didn’t really understand the words they were singing. They learned the sounds by rote and when they sang, the song was accurate, but the feeling behind it was missing. It was an empty hollow sound. Mobile Homes is just as empty, devoid of the connection to the material the film encompasses that is required to move me as a viewer.
In a shallow film about a deep topic, another disappointment was the fact that the key relationships were devoid of any meaningful depth. There was the hint that Ali wanted something better for Bone, but their relationship lacked any observable affection. Ali’s relationship with Evan was decidedly cliche from the graphic and gratuitous sex to the domestic violence there was nothing that made this couple interesting. Their relationship was a caricature.
The one real highlight was Robert (Callum Keith Rennie). In a cast of professional actors he was the one who clearly outdistanced the writing. Robert comes upon Ali and tries to help her and Bone. He doesn’t want to help them, but quickly realizes that without his help they could very easily be doomed to a horrible fate. His internal conflict is clear and Rennie’s abilities before the camera shine brightly in this amalgamation of muted and depressing imagery. In the end he suffers for his kindness.
Mobile Homes is a film that wants to be dark and gritty and that definitely comes through on the technical side as well. The shot choices are bleak, the cinematography washed out and the film is poorly lit. If it was a willful choice to give the story a film noire vibe it didn’t work. I think those are the words that describe Mobile Homes best. It didn’t work.
1 out of 5 stars.