Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Bump Along the Way – a mother and daughter do a bit of growing up in a female-centred drama that celebrates ochre and Derry’s scenery (from 11 October)

A Bump Along the Way is a brooding film written by Tess McGowan about the trials of a mother and daughter, neither of whom have yet grown up. Fifteen-year-old Allegra is overwhelmed by the teenage struggle to be popular, her feelings for an older fella who won’t give her the time of day, the absence of her Dad who ran off to Belfast, and her somewhat carefree Mum.

Forty something, single parent Pamela has a part time job in a bakery. She finds herself back in the family way after a careless one-night stand with a plumber whose sperm overcomes medical opinion that has written off Pamela’s fertility years before.

Lola Petticrew really captures the moody, artistic teenager – vegan for good measure – whose self-obsessed world is interrupted by her mother’s unexpected news. Classroom cattiness turns into bullying as her Mum’s condition becomes scandalous ammunition to add to her scholastic misery. Petticrew ably swings Allegra’s character between happy-go-lucky and morose, tipped over the edge into banging doors with the slightest push.

Bronagh Gallagher gets to take Pamela on a journey from being a doormat to standing up and being assertive. Yet it’s a very laid-back performance, never hysterical, always thoughtful. Pamela’s wing-woman Sinead is played by Mary Moulds, with plenty of comic timing and hushed knowing looks.

Dan Gordon makes a fabulous baker, the only good guy in a cast full of disappointing men. Ex-husband Kieran is played by Gerard Jordan as a hypocrite Pamela is well shot of, while Barry the plumber (Andy Doherty) is a sign of her past repeating itself.

Filmed entirely in Derry, A Bump Along the Way showcases the city and its environs with verdant grass and menacing clouds. It’s a triumph of cinematography, with a gorgeously executed rich theme of ochre that very deliberately brings sunlight into scenes through a t-shirt, a bag, a nursery wall.

Dramatically, the film wobbles slightly and skips a few beats – and features some overly-curt dialogue – during the climatic struggle between the heavily-pregnant mother and absent daughter before the gritty realism of agony in a hospital ward pulls it back, charges up with emotion and allows an hour and half of tension to be released.

Director Shelly Love and the creative team must have fought hard against the urge to play Chumbawamba’s I Get Knocked Down over the closing credits … though I Get Knocked Up could have been more apt.

For me, the film’s focus is somewhat uncomfortably split between mother and daughter. Both clearly have some growing up to do. The story of the ‘geriatric pregnancy’ is well told; the scenes of labour will bring back some people’s memories of gas and air. The incidents of offline and online bullying and alcohol experimentation are well drawn. But I’d love to see an edit of the film that allowed either Petticrew or Gallagher to get the screen time they deserve, and while I feel torn about making the decision on whom to focus, it may have made the story stronger.

A Bump Along The Way is a good female-centred character study about making the most of what life throws at you, valuing good friendships over popularity, and the perils of parenting. In cinemas from 11 October 2019.

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