Writer/Director: Anne-Marie O’Connor| Producer: Kate Larking | Cast: Kate O’Donnell, Kenneth Colley, Margot Leicester, Ash Palmisciano, Joseph Pearson and Lee Boardman
British short film Mum, directed and written by noted British TV writer Anne-Marie O’Connor and starring actress Kate O’Donnell, dives into the bond between a mother and child in the face of a big change. Unapologetically self-conscious in its address of contributing to a topical discussion and using transgender talent, Mum doesn’t allow the topic to be an ‘issue’ or overwhelm and take centre stage of what is unequivocally a love story between Mother and child.It’s been a while since Kate and her beloved mother, Pam, spent time together and a brief conversation between Kate and her older brother Carl insinuates that their father, Graham, is the reason for much of the adversity. Kate’s dreading having to be in his presence again but its the sincere memories of moments shared with her mother growing up as a boy and presumably navigating her way to becoming a woman, that spurs her on.
The use of flashbacks as a device in this film isn’t novel or even unexpected but it is warranted and interestingly conveyed. For Kate, memories of her as a nine-year-old child (a boy called Andrew to be specific) are depicted under warm and comforting tones, joyous laughter, singing and intimate close-ups. Flash-forward another ten plus years, the scene becomes colder as Kate – still in the body of a young man but is perhaps more intuitive about who she wants to become – tiptoes around Graham; Pam is also older and sick no longer able to protect her child from the disapproving ‘other’ but their bond remains strong. It’s a striking contrast to envision the past as happy and the years preceding as cold but this deliberate tonal distinction manages to turn the usual tropes of harrowing beginnings for transgender humans on its head. Brave in its delivery and statement: not everything in the past was bad and life certainly isn’t rosie when you take a step to show who you really are to the rest of the world, especially those closest to you.
The film comes full circle as the memory of Kate’s childhood and the longing for the shared experience between them is revisited. It’s bittersweet. Pam is physically unable to do much and the strains of this have impacted on the family dynamic – Kate feels unwelcomed and ostracised from her mother. However when they’re reunited a kind of role reversal takes place. Kate becomes the maternal one, showering her beloved mother with the same love and tenderness that she was shown as a child.
Another brilliant feat for Mum is that it uses three generations of trans actors to play the three versions of Andrew/Kate. It’s a forward thinking and a successful example of expanding the woefully small pool of roles for trans actors whilst simultaneously giving them the rare opportunity to play roles they resonate with better than others.
Mum has already triumphed and won awards including winning big at this years Flare film festival – however its nothing groundbreaking in story but more so in its execution and proven inclusivity in front and behind the camera. Written by women, trans actors packaged into a story that is universal.