We caught up with the cast and crew ahead of the premiere of the Alberto Sciamma written and directed, I Love My Mum.
Independent British comedy, I Love My Mum tells the story of mother and son who inadvertently get shopped in a container from their UK home to Morocco. Without money or documents and still in their pyjamas, they need to find a way back to the UK. The film is produced by the growing independent company, Camelot Films, the team behind 2018’s indie-thriller Winter Ridge alongside Amunet Productions. We spoke with Alberto Sciamma, the film’s writer & director, to find out what fans can expect.
Presh: The film takes the viewer through Morocco, Italy, Spain & France. What were your favourite locations to film in?
Alberto Sciamma: All of them were great locations; the sea and port in Italy, mountains and gorges in the Pyrenees, all the way from Marrakech to Tanger, even shooting in Tilbury was great fun. Each location presented a different set of challenges, but I was lucky to be working with two fantastic Producers; Alexa Waugh and Matt Hookings. Alexa coordinated all the shooting and travelling etc, and she managed to make it all work – it was nuts.
But the real beauty was that in each place we worked with great actors. In Spain with Aida Folch, who plays the ‘love’ interest to Ron; she is a natural and very incisive actor. Dominique Pinon and Tim Downie in UK; both such great actors and with very different styles of comedy. And Frank Laboeuf and Sara Martins in Cataluña, both brilliant at improvisation and both great to be with.
We shot all the time as we moved from place to place, it was non stop, always chasing the peculiar or the unexpected, we invited accidents to happen, so we could get the spontaneous feel I was after.
The movie is explosive and raw, and to capture that energy the shoot had to be the same, and it was; we were running away from the police in Morocco as Tommy French forgot his driving license in London, had accidents with the old Mercedes car he had to drive — and Kierston endured hours of cold water and jellyfish stings…
To captured some moments it was just me and Fabio Paolucci, our DOP, climbing endless mountains to get a few seconds of footage.
I guess each of us in the team remember one of the locations with special love — depending on where we got ill.
At one point in Morocco, everyone was down; how we managed to get those scenes done, well, that was a miracle — I mean; an actor had to hold the boom, sound had to assist the director of photography, and I believe our little dog was focus pulling… it got feverishly crazy.
How much of Ron & Olga’s journey is a metaphor of British peoples relationship with Europe? Or was that not a consideration in making the film?
Ok… that’s a big question, and I would rather go to Alton Towers… but here we go:
Sometimes we talk about Europe as if it was a single homogenous entity, and it’s not. Europe is fragmented and diverse. Just look at Spain where I was born, opinions and views and attitudes change from region to region. Europe as a solid entity does not exist, or does it?
Ron and Olga are out of their comfort zone, they are fish out of water; dropped from their British made sofa into a new universe. They have issues communicating and adapting to their new surroundings — but at the end of the day they don’t care, they plough on. That sense of self-absorbing attitude fascinates me — and let’s be real, you just need to go to Magaluz (Magaluf) for a few days to experience it, or hear plenty of politicians talk about the ‘continent’; that world outside that does not speak English.
But that same attitude is everywhere, it’s not British owned. That intrinsic animosity is universal, each country tends to look at the rest with that same sense of occasional mistrust. Regardless how much we hide it behind a veneer of worldliness and sophistication… we all can be prattish; insular people with the same preconceptions and insecurities.
But for me Ron and Olga are heroic! Protected by their Teflon like skin they walk the world, like crusaders, and I just bloody love it… it’s stereotypical but so what? Stereotypes are signals, basic iconography that simplifies the world outside; regardless of how ‘far-off mark’ such iconography may be – it tell us which toilet to use.
So, to answer your question. It’s their journey a metaphor for how we view and communicate with the ‘world outside’?… Benidorm anyone? Let’s go get legless, I’m paying…
Ron (played by Tommy French) & Olga’s (Played by Keirston Wareing) relationship is key to the plot. How did you go about getting the right chemistry between lead actors?
The chemistry happened naturally, it was there from the start. First, we contacted Kierston, she is utterly fresh and strong and very gutsy. Then, knowing Kierston was playing the mum, we looked for a Ron – and we found Tommy French. Or God sent him to us…
We put them together in a room and a second later I knew I had Ron and Olga. I remember I asked them to sing ‘Always Blowing Bubbles’ together… they did. It worked perfectly as they both sounded like strangled seagulls- that sort of high pitched sound they do… so I smiled, they were Mum and son!
You’ve mentioned how your own experience of growing up in Spain but living in England for most of your life serves as a lot of the inspiration for the film. Did you feel you identified more with Ron & Olga or actually the people that Ron & Olga meet as they travel throughout Europe?
I am Ron and Olga. I remember when I first came to England, many many years ago, I fell in love with the place, maybe because I couldn’t understand a single word and that sense of not belonging was actually quite precious, and still with me. But the character I identify more with is the little fluffy dog. He yaps and yaps drinks too much and drowns in the pool – only to be resuscitated by Olga at the end. Yep, I certainly identify with that little lost creature…
In ILMM there are no good guys and bad guys, it’s a naive movie, simple in its core and I hope sincere in its absurdity. I believe my experiences are embedded in all the characters, but not even intentionally, it just happens as you write it and shape it.
Are there personal stories from your own childhood and relationship with your parents that influenced the direction of the film?
All experiences affect what you write. I was once living with a friend of mine in his house, he lived there with his mum – he was in his forties. Circumstances of life took me there; from my house in London to a lovely inflatable bed on the floor, for quite a few months…
I remember arriving very very upset to their house, I opened the door and got in; in front of me stood his mom. Seeing me all shattered and sad and teary she stepped towards me (and please take into consideration she is a very large lady) and she said:
“you want to be sad about something you little prat?! Have a look at this then!” Suddenly I saw an endless landscape of Rubenesque flesh wobbling as she removed her nighty, like a magician revealing a rabbit. My sadness disappeared. I was saved. I realised I had met ‘Olga’ for the first time… Life’s a comedy, so I wrote it.
The film is intended to be a light-hearted comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with this in mind, how did you also go about referencing the current ‘refugee crisis’ within Europe in the film?
Ron and Olga suddenly become reverse-immigrants, utterly lost and trying to find their way back home, but Ron and Olga don’t look at the world with any Intellectual curiosity, they could as well be sitting at home arguing about silly stuff.
There is a scene in the movie in which Ron an Olga must cross from Morocco to Spain in an immigrants dinghy. It’s a difficult scene, a scene that walks a moral knife edge — but I felt it important as the scene is somehow a mirror to our attitudes. We tend to act as Ron and Olga do; we want to help but create chaos instead. The scene is as pathetic as our approach to such matters.
We need a concerted global effort to resolve such devastating human crisis, but you look around and you see a lot of posturing, here and in Spain and Italy and everywhere: as individuals, we talk about it, feel bad for a sec… and then go for a pint.
I Love My Mum is out in cinemas in the UK on 31st May 2019