Retour Chez Ma Mère – Eric Lavaine

239720Director Eric Lavaine has followed up his successful 2014 film Barbecue with this banal, flat comedy which fairly reeks of missed opportunity. There are some sharp observations about internet techno-babble and how it has slipped into common usuage for the younger generation leaving behind a confused, older population.  But the basic back story of a forty-something woman forced to move in with her mother after her architectural business collapses never takes off.  Any tranchant social commentary about mid-career job-loss or the underlying powerplay between an ageing parent and an adult offsrping is soon lost in scene after scene of pointless family squabbles.  Josiane Balasko does a great job as the eccentric, acerbic matriach who has difficulty welcoming her daughter back into the family home, but Alexandra Lamy struggles to breathe life into her character of a failed, directionless businesswoman.

Stéphanie (Lamy) is forced to move back in with her mother after her business goes to the wall and she is left penniless. Her mother Jacqueline (Balasko) has happily lived on her own since the death of her husband twelve months previously and has a well-established routine of hobbies and a new love affair with the upstairs neighbour Jean (Didier Flamand). Stéphanie’s lack of money and inabiity to find work puts a strain on her relationship with her mother which has a knock-on effect in her dealings with her brother Nicolas (Philippe Lefebvre) and sister Carole (Mathilde Seigner).
After a promising start with Balasko and Lamy locking horns over the over-heated apartment and Jacqueline’s habit of listening to Francis Cabrel at full volume, things go steadily downhill.  Lavaine makes no attempt to scratch beneath the surface of the long-standing resentment between the three siblings. Past slights, misunderstandings and deeply-held grudges are the stuff of normal family life and can be mined for rich seams of humour. Instead Lavaine goes for the easy laugh and leaves Balasko to carry almost single handedly the weight of any comedy.

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