In “Dear Mother”, Laurent Lafitte’s quick feature debut, Jean-Louis (Lafitte) is on a mission to find the source of his existence – or “the origin of the world”, to borrow from the film’s French title, ” The “Origin of the world”, an explicit reference to the painting of the 19th century artist Gustave Courbet representing the female anatomy.
The point is, Jean-Louis’ heart has stopped beating, and there is no reasonable explanation as to why, despite his lack of a pulse, he appears to be alive and well. Valérie (Karin Viard), his wife, leads him towards a kind of spiritual guru who knows the remedy. All they need to lift the curse – or whatever – is a photograph of Jean-Louis’ mother’s vagina.
Adapted by Lafitte from a 2013 play by Sébastien Thiery, “Dear Mother” is the kind of wacky comedy whose absurd premise and fast-paced allow you almost to overlook the fact that it’s not overwhelmingly bright or witty.
Confronted with the unseemly task of getting his estranged mother (Hélène Vincent) to reveal her secrets before time runs out, Jean-Louis and Valérie attempt a number of outlandish ploys, most of them involving Jean-Louis Michel (Vincent Macaigne), who poses as a gynecologist, then as a photographer of nude portraits.
The trio’s lively rapport certainly keeps you on your toes, but beyond the pleasant chaos of it all, female genitalia gags are becoming mundane and youthful – and not in an adorable way. Add to that a subtle air of homophobia, and it all starts to sound like the invention of horny fellowship boys who have taken a liking to art history classes.
Unclassified. In French, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on Netflix.