Review: Mobile Homes
by Camillo De Marco
- The protagonist of the film by Vladimir de Fontenay is a young woman wandering the streets on the border between Canada and the United States, in search of a dignified life for her child
"From the state where 20 percent of our homes are mobile, because that's how we roll," is how Brooke Mosteller, Miss South Carolina, introduced herself on stage many years ago, causing a furore in the Miss America contest. There are 20 million Americans living in boxes on wheels, well-off citizens in ready-made housing with all the comforts, but also people who cannot afford real homes. An idea that must have fascinated Vladimir de Fontenay, a French director who graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts in New York (the same as Scorsese, Spike Lee and Oliver Stone), and who dedicated a short film to the ready-made dwellings in 2013, which later developed into the feature film Mobile Homes [+see also:
film profile]. Selected at the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes 2017, and now in competition at Bergamo Film Meeting, the film will be released in France on 4 April with Nour Films.
"Address?" a social worker asks the protagonist, Ali (the British actress Imogen Poots). "We don’t have a house at the moment," she replies in the film's first scene. And when her eight-year-old son Bone (Frank Oulton), tired of waiting around, runs off into a snowy landscape (the film was shot in Niagara Falls), she justifies it with a pure contradiction: "He knows his way home." Ali is a loser in Obama’s America – a young woman wandering the streets on the border between Canada and the United States, looking for shelter and a dignified life for her child. But her most recent boyfriend, Evan (Callum Turner), is not the ideal walking companion, and Bone, as well as knowing his way "home," also knows how to get breakfast in the diner and do a runner without paying, how to steal, sell cocaine and participate in illegal cockfighting. This family's American dream is simple: make enough money to get a roof over their heads so that they can build a future. Even if this involves betraying a man who welcomes them benevolently (Callum Keith Rennie) into a mobile home.
The film by Vladimir de Fontenay sits somewhere between American Honey [+see also:
Q&A: Andrea Arnold
film profile] by Andrea Arnold and the excellent The Florida Project by Sean Baker, but it is not as cinematically brilliant as the former or as empathetic as the latter. It has a certain harshness to it that is reminiscent of The Other Side [+see also:
interview: Roberto Minervini
film profile] by Roberto Minervini, without possessing the same authenticity or verisimilitude. But just like the previously mentioned films, Mobile Homes aims to show "the other side" of the United States, the dark and unexplored territory of America, where individuals live on the margins of society, surviving as and where they can, forgotten by institutions. The image of a huge trailer carrying a mobile home on wheels, while the tiny figure of Ali drives recklessly with small Bone at her side will linger in the audience's mind. The film expresses the idea of living on the edge and decisively reverses the concept of "putting down roots," thanks to the performances of Imogen Poots and little Oulton.
Mobile Homes was selected at MIA | Cinema Co-production Market 2015, and was later produced by Frédéric de Goldschmidt for Madeleine Films, with Eric Dupont from Incognito Films and Mike MacMillan from Lithium Studios Productions (Canada).
(Translated from Italian)
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