LAFF 2013: Mother, I Love You (***)

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mother, i love you

Latvian director Janis Nords’ gripping Mother, I Love You is remarkably similar to 2012’s unforgettable The Kid with a Bike. Both foreign films structure their narratives around a young boy with a heap of familial problems that rob him of an easygoing childhood. The Kid with a Bike’s screenplay was darker and riskier than the one guiding Mother, I Love You, but there’s still a sad beauty to Nords’ sophomore effort that’s deserving of praise. As a boy scared of his mother’s violent outbursts, young Raymond (Kristofers Konovalovs) does everything in his power to prevent his mother from finding out the mischief he’s caused. His mom (Vita Varpina) is a single-mother who works late hours as a nurse and expects Raymond to take care of himself at all times while she is away. She places such high expectations on Raymond that she often forgets he’s just a kid who is bound to get in a bit of trouble here and there.

Mother, I Love You is essentially an avalanche of chaos, one event consequentially creating an even more troublesome one. The more Raymond tries to cover up his misdeeds from his abusive mother, the more his lies start piling up. His pranks become crimes; his crimes become misdemeanors; his misdemeanors become felonies. But through it all, you cannot help but sympathize with Raymond, who just wants to clean the slate with his mother and start their relationship anew. The problem: he can only do so if he lies, cheats and steals his way back into his mother’s good graces.

Kristofers Konovalovs delivers a naturalistic portrayal of youth. There’s no embellishment to any of his reactions, which is why casting an unknown actor can only increase the honesty of the character. A child performance by an unknown is authentic because it’s partially derived from recent experiences. Nords capitalizes on Kristofers’ real-life skill with a scooter bike in order to take us on a sprawling adventure through an urban city in Latvia. The tricks he performs on his scooter amplify the character’s frustrations and rebellious tendencies. While the film could have explored the volatile mother-son dichotomy even further, Mother, I Love You functions as a strong reminder to parents that love comes before discipline. This film is currently part of the Narrative Feature Competition at LAFF this year. Watch the trailer below: