Showing ahead of a summer release, this debut by Vladimir de Fontenay is an expansion of a 13 minute short produced by the self-same at film school. A short that drew the attention of Spike Lee no less. Stick in some star power for this 12 inch extended remix by a luminous Imogen Poots and Callum Turner – both in attendance tonight – and it’s game on. So far so good. Or so you would think…
The problem Mobile Homes has is that though it is finely acted, though it is utterly believable and though it is impressively shot – particularly so for a first film – it’s a bit dull. It’s a bit ho-hum. Whilst there is a ring of gritty truth about the goings on, it’s hard to care a massive amount about the characters. Not being hugely likeable is absolutely fine, not being hugely interesting is problematic. And though the story arc does ramp up sharply towards the end of the film, the narrative is perhaps not excessively compelling either.
In a perfunctory description, Mobile Homes principally concerns three characters, Ali, Evan and Bone played by Poots, Turner and a very young Frank Oulton. They’re on the road, living the lives of the downtrodden, looking to lay down roots, moving from place to place. With an ever-present chicken in tow. Various and most definitely mobile homes inhabited with a chicken. It’s snowy, gritty, and, one suspects, is designed to be a window into the lives and hopes of those hidden in plain sight on the margins.
None of the above really paints a standout film on paper. That need not be a problem however if the only unlikeable character is the boyfriend. And he most definitely is a bit of a wrong un. Unfortunately, whilst following the travails across bar rooms and (admittedly well-staged) cockfights, one gets progressively more invested in the avian contingent of the acting troop at the expense of anyone human. And, at the end of the day, outside the fantasy of Disney-land, a chicken is still a chicken. The film drifts perhaps a little too aimlessly. That may be a clever clever deliberately ploy in a road movie of course…but it still means it drifts.
On a Baltic night on the red carpet as the deep freeze further engulfs the festival, the two actors are a genial presence on stage. They actually watch the film instead of buggering off to the bar – a rareity – and describe a shoot that was tough, equally cold work but resulting in movie all are immensely proud of. Oh, but one felt the same. Still, we do find out that Jeff Bridges even now gets stage fright and quells his anxiety by obsessively checking his hair. Which is nice.
Released Summer 2018.