A mother’s desperate attempts to provide for her child provided the backbone of last year’s “Florida Project,” a beautiful film whose look at poverty, while unvarnished, still managed to provide occasional moments of transcendent joy. “Mobile Homes,” a new film from French writer-director Vladimir de Fontenay breathes the same air minus the joy.
Imogen Poots is Ali, a young mom struggling to raise her eight-year-old son Bone (Frank Oulton). Roaming from town to town, they dine and dash their way across America. Scamming, selling drugs and cockfighting barely keep Bone, Ali and boyfriend Evan (Callum Turner) afloat as they scrimp to one day realize their dream of having a home of their own. After one disastrous night Ali and Bone flee, landing at a trailer park run by Robert (Callum Keith Rennie). Under the kindly park manager’s guidance mother and son gradually begin to change their lives, working toward something they’ve never had before, stability. “It’s a house,” Robert says of their new mobile home. “A home is what you build inside of it.” Ali’s dream of fabricating a life in a prefab home, however, is short lived.
“Mobile Homes” is all about a search for community and belonging. de Fontenay filters his story through an artfully gritty lens, but fails to provide the heart and soul necessary for the tale to take hold of our imaginations. Poots is charismatic while displaying such poor parenting skills it’s a wonder poor Bone made it past his first birthday. As the troublemaker Evan, Turner brings a sketchy energy but, despite the multitude of sex scenes with Ali, doesn’t have the chemistry with her to make us believe that she would buy into his cockamamie plans. “I love you,” he says after laying out a harebrained scheme, “it doesn’t have to make sense.” Well, yes it does if the audience is meant to care about what’s happening on screen.
Rennie is his usual solid self, playing a man with a heart-of-gold and an edge but the film’s best work comes from Oulton. Naturalistic and unaffected, he is the one character who feels in the moment in every moment of the film.
“Mobile Homes” boasts interesting cinematography from Benoit Soler, an elegiac score from Matthew Otto and features a rather spectacular visual metaphor for Ali’s crushed dream of ever having a home of her own. Unfortunately, despite the flashes of interest the film is more interested in misery than solid drama.