TIFF15 REVIEW: Maman(s) [2015]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 20 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (France)
Studio: Bien Ou Bien Productions
Director(s): Maïmouna Doucouré
Writer(s): Maïmouna Doucouré

“I’m drowning in it now”

Young Aida (Sokhna Diallo) is forced to process a lot on the day her father (Eriq Ebouaney‘s Alioune) returns to Paris from Senegal after two months away. First is the joyous laughter of mom (Maïmouna Gueye‘s Mariam) and her friends burning an herbal aphrodisiac up her dress. Next is the happiness of seeing him finally walk through the door with love and an embrace. Before anyone can get too excited, though, smiles turn to confusion at the fact he hasn’t come alone. With him is Rama (Mareme N’Diaye), baby in arms. The audience and Mariam infer rather quickly what this situation entails, but Aida isn’t quite sure. Does her father not love her mother anymore? Who is this stranger? And why is mom so distraught?

These are the conditions writer/director Maïmouna Doucouré thrusts upon this eight-year old character in Maman(s) [Mother(s)]. The whole is shown from her vantage point—the curiosity, bewilderment, and anger evolving one to the next as snippets of dialogue and interaction is gleaned throughout each day. Her brother (Azize Diabaté Abdoulaye) is practically unfazed, happy his dad is back and possibly thinking about the prospect of two wives in his own future. What we’re watching is obviously a patriarchal union for Rama to even be let into this house and Aida is officially opening her eyes to what that means. The newcomer has her own container of incense that’s bigger than her mom’s, so maybe that’s the issue.

What begins as innocent disobedience in a show of loyalty to Mariam, Aida’s frustrations begin to mirror the scorned wife until she tearfully takes drastic measures. You can’t even really blame the child because she hasn’t been prepared for the difficulties of life through unknown circumstances. Mom and Dad aren’t quick to lift the curtain so soon, but shielding her from the truth of the emotions and anger they feel only amplifies their effect. Doucouré says a lot with very little, putting us in Aida’s shoes to witness her mind reading this betrayal as simple black and white. There’s so much more happening on the fringes, though, yet all she sees is an intruder. What’s therefore a quicker route back to normalcy than excising it?

Courtesy of TIFF

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