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Hot Docs '15 Review: Mom and Me

How much of the self remains after decades of drug addiction and homelessness? Director Lena Macdonald asks this question with the very personal Mom and Me. For 10 years Macdonald filmed her mother on the streets and in the crack houses of Toronto. She was simultaneously blossoming into a filmmaker and trying to save her estranged mother. Along the way she discovered who her mother, Harriet Durham, used to be and who she maybe still was. She describes childhood visits with her mother as a week-long sugar high. New dresses, fancy dinners and hotels. But after these periods her mother would drift out of her life again until eventually she was gone completely.

Mom and Me is an authentic and unsentimental portrayal of a daughter who will not give up on her mother. Even when – as she expresses in the film – Macdonald and her fiancé are unable to have fun due to the stress of constantly worrying about and chasing after the increasingly erratic Harriet. In one scene Macdonald tries to get her mother to leave an alleyway that she is dumpster diving in. The role reversals between parent and child are painfully evident as Lena points out that her mother is getting her running shoes wet. The only thing missing from the film is more back story on Harriet. There are reasons why she spiralled into depression and addiction but the film only really touches upon them which is a shame.

[star v=4]