It’s a term that elicits a broad range of emotions, with each of our respective childhoods affecting how we react to it. Who we were, growing up, is a significant factor. But what about instances when who we are now is worlds apart from the person we once were?
Having spent much of her career up to now working in television, Mum is Anne-Marie O’Connor’s first short film, and one that she created with the help of star Kate O’Donnell, a transgender actor. Her debut short focuses on a trans character of the same name whose visit home is derailed by the discovery that her mother is in very poor health.
Much like the director, O’Donnell’s limited experience is also in television, where she starred in an episode of the transgender romcom series Boy Meets Girl. As the character at the centre of this short film she delivers a performance that, while uneven at points, always feels painfully real.
O’Donnell’s scenes with Margot Leicester, who plays the titular character, are imbued with tenderness, and are among Mum‘s strongest moments. The same can be said of her conversation with her brother Carl [Lee Boardman], which suggest the years they shared growing up together. It’s when O’Donnell’s character comes into conflict that her performance falters, her emotional outburst lacking much of the nuance and depth she brings to her other interactions.
As an additional note on the talent involved, attention should be paid to both Ash Palmisciano and Joseph Pearson, the young transgender actors who play Kate at earlier stages of her life. Mum marks the first screen role for the latter, who was only ten-years-old at the time of filming. Both Palmisciano and Pearson own their roles, and while they’re given little screentime make every one of those minutes worth it.
To say that family is complicated is putting it lightly. In particular are the interactions between parents and their children, and vice versa, and the shifts they inevitably go through from decade to decade. With Mum O’Connor and O’Donnell seek to tell a very specific story, but also one that is universal. While not all of us will be able to relate to Kate’s experiences, many will empathize with the experience of uttering the film’s title for the first time in weeks, months, or even years.
Mum has won best LGBTQ film at the London Independent Film Festival, as well as the Global Shorts Award of Excellence. It began screening as part of New Irish Shorts 3 at the Galway Film Fleadh today.
Please check back here for an exclusive interview with director Anne-Marie O’Connor and actor Kate O’Donnell!