Returning to French lingo production after a pair of pics in English, Swiss-born, Quebec-based director Lea Pool maintains her usual focus on a female's motherless coming-of-age in "Mommy Is at the Hairdresser's."

Returning to French lingo production after a pair of pics in English, Swiss-born, Quebec-based director Lea Pool (“Set Me Free”) maintains her usual focus on a female’s motherless coming-of-age in “Mommy Is at the Hairdresser’s.” Set during a hot summer in suburban Montreal circa 1966, the film makes attractive use of vivid period detail, but its episodic narrative never takes hold, while its reluctance to grapple fully with the absence from her family of the careerist title character (Celine Bonnier) registers as unduly adolescent. French-Canadian territories notwithstanding, the pic won’t mature much beyond fest play.

Screenplay, the first by docu-researcher Isabelle Hebert, measures the impact of familial tension on children. Narrating in voiceover, pigtailed teen Elise (Marianne Fortier) reacts to the sudden separation of newscaster Simone and evidently gay Dad (Laurent Lucas) by trying on Mom’s clothes. Youngest brother Benoit (Hugo St-Onge-Paquin) wets his pants, while 12-year-old Coco (Elie Dupuis) turns his attention to go-carting. TV musicshow clips remind the viewer the pic is set just prior to the sexual revolution, though Pool’s interest in Mom’s psychology nears nonexistence. By default, Gabriel Arcand appears strongest, cast as a speech-impaired fisherman.

Mommy Is at the Hairdresser's

Canada

Production

An Equinoxe Films presentation of an Equinoxe production. (International sales: Seville Pictures, Montreal.) Produced by Lyse Lafontaine, Michael Mosca. Directed by Lea Pool. Screenplay Isabelle Hebert.

Crew

Camera (color), Daniel Jobin; editor, Dominique Fortin; music, Laurent Eyquem; production manager, Francois Tremblay; art director, Patrice Bengle; costume designer, Michele Hamel. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 8, 2008. (Also in San Sebastian Film Festival.) French dialogue. Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Laurent Lucas, Celine Bonnier, Marianne Fortier, Elie Dupuis, Hugo St-Onge-Paquin, Gabriel Arcand.

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