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March 08

And this year's Oscar goes to all you mothers!

By Julia Jarvis-Knell

Gary Oldman’s heartfelt Oscar tribute on Sunday to his ‘99 years young’ mother was both charming and democratising, “and I say to my mother thank you for your love and support. Put the kettle on, I’m bringing Oscar home!”, Here’s a man receiving the ultimate career accolade - yet all Gary really wants to do is make his mum proud.

Looking through this year’s lists of nominated films, mothers loom large. Take Frances McDormand’s tour de force performance as Mildred in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. If you haven’t seen the film, McDormand plays a mother whose daughter, Pamela, is killed in the most brutal and shocking way and is on a one-woman crusade to find the culprit. Mildred is driven by grief, anger and wants answers - or at very least to find someone who will take responsibility for finding the murderer of her child.

She is fearless and fearsome. Her character renews your admiration of all the mothers and families who’ve lived through the same or ordeal, the loss of a child, and use their pain to fight the evil, the inept, and the corrupt in order that no one else has to go through what they’ve been through.


In Greta Gerwig’s nominated Lady Bird, stressed out mother, Marion McPherson, played by Laurie Metcalf, demonstrates the unruly pressures of being the family breadwinner – working long hours, struggling to pay the rent with a husband out of work, as well as having to deal with a daughter Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, going through her precarious years that roll from childhood into adulthood. 

Ouch.

There’s a daily tension between mother and daughter as each take turns to push the other’s buttons to ensure maximum insult with the least effort. It’s a brilliant portrayal of the messy reality of family dynamics.

No one teaches mothering, from what I can tell its all a process of trial and error - the parent hoping to instil some sort of value system and respect for others in their kids, without being perennially viewed an evil tyrant. Being a mum, is a truly, an emotional assault course.

As a mother of a 5 ½ year old, I’ve now so seen both sides of the fence. In my youth, I idolized the teenagers in films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the Breakfast Club. I daydreamed of being like them - or even better hanging out with them. Now their behaviour just grates. In short, I’m a maternal sympathizer. I’ve turned into a proper mother.

And mothers do come in all different shapes, sizes and temperaments. In I, Tonya, a satirical biopic based on the true story of US figure skater Tonya Harding, Allison Janney plays LaVonya, a mother who practices the ‘cruel to be kind’ school of parenting. LaVonya is domineering, as hard as nails, spitting piss and vinegar equally vehemently at her daughter as her enemies. 


As it’s often said, you can’t choose your family and here, whilst there’s a definite sense of schadenfreude watching the scythe-like LaVonya slice away at her daughter confidence at any opportunity, you’re rooting for Tonya in the end, who despite her own experiences and choices, reassures us in the ‘where are they now’ end credits, that she’s a good mother to her own daughter.

There is no rule book for mothering, but I do think Kimya Dawson (below) is on the right track. I think the best mums offer their kids the confidence to be themselves, to go out into the world and seek their own adventures and identities, I know my mum did.

 

---

*Home page image 'Title' from Heather Evan Smith's Seen not Heard series

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