Let’s face it: we live in an era of endless #hashtag holidays. If it exists, there’s a day for celebrating it on the internet. Unfortunately, lost in the (often good-natured) excess of our celebrations is a genuine appreciation for the quiet, hard-to-define relationships that we ought to keep conscious of, and recognize.
This week’s Staff Pick Premiere, “Mothering,” from director Lucy Bridger shines a gentle and moving light on one such relationship, and on caregivers who support us in unexpected ways.
When the lead character, Mia, arrives at her new foster home, finding comfort in an unfamiliar setting doesn’t come naturally. Helen, Mia’s foster mother, tries to create a welcoming environment, but despite her best efforts, a distance remains. Adding to the discomfort, Mia’s first period arrives unexpectedly in the middle of the night. That’s when her foster grandmother, Pauline, steps in to display the kind of motherly comfort Mia needs.
In honor of today’s premiere, we got in touch with director Lucy Bridger to talk process and inspiration. See what she had to say, and check out some personal photographs that inspired “Mothering,” below.
Where did the inspiration for Mia’s story came from?
I wrote the film not long after my grandad died. I was very close with both of my grandparents, especially my grandmother, who passed away a few years earlier. My grandparents’ life and home were a big influence, and I wanted to do something that was an ode to them. I remember when I was about 14, my parents were in the middle of a divorce and I got a really painful period while I was staying with my grandparents. My grandma had a sixth sense; she ran me a bath, left a hot water bottle in the kitchen, and made me a homely meal. I always found her sense of calm and certainty amazing to be around, and that’s where a large part of the story came from.
A lot of the film’s emotion comes through quiet gestures. Can you talk about this subtle and incredibly moving approach?
I think humans in general are quite terrible at communicating. We communicate in reverse or not at all, and a lot of what’s said comes from the way we physically present ourselves. For me, there was always this idea that Helen (the foster mother) was saying a lot and fussing, but not really helping Mia feel at ease. I couldn’t imagine her being tactile; Helen would try and problem solve with words. In contrast to that, Pauline (the foster grandmother) knew there was nothing she could say to take away Mia’s pain — the physical pain of the period or the emotional pain of being a stranger in a new home.
When you enter a new phase of your life, as Mia was doing, you grieve. I personally believe there are no words that can take away that pain. Understanding that somebody is physically there and present is the most comfort a person can give you.
Can you talk about working with Ursula Jones (who played Pauline) and Sapphire Paine (who played Mia)? Their intergenerational connection was touching.
We actually didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse prior to filming — I think about 45 minutes to be precise. On set, we used a loose shooting script; we had certain beats and lines to hit, but we encouraged improvisation. I think this helped everyone feel less precious about things. Ultimately, we got lucky; the cast and crew were very supportive of each other, and I think we all saw eye to eye. The set had a unique feeling. I honestly look back at that shoot as one of my favorite experiences ever.
What were some challenges you faced in making this film?
For me, writing the script and the edit were the most challenging stages. I’d never written a script before, so there were technical challenges with that, but sharing it with people was also very scary. I hate hammy dialogue, so I was worried about writing something clunky or not communicating what I wanted. In the edit, I had a few ideas (like a much a longer dinner scene) that ended up not working. We were really lucky with our editor, Jack Williams. He was amazing and he helped push things forward when I got stuck.
What’s one thing you learned from this process?
I learned to trust myself and chill the F out.
What do you hope people take away from “Mothering”?
“Mothering” is about the bittersweet experience of overcoming change. I hope my work reminds people that exposing your emotions and being vulnerable can lead to something fruitful. On a separate note, I also hope it demonstrates the way periods are culturally presented as something to be ashamed of, and how that affects women who are most vulnerable. It’s irritating that we are taught to conceal something so natural.