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Guillaume Gallienne is little known outside his native France, but pundits inside the Japanese movie industry are predicting that in a year or two, Gallienne will be huge. In 2015, you could be saying to your friends: “Ah yes, Gallienne. Of course, I’ve followed his work for ages.”

With that in mind, “Me, Myself and Mum” is a good occasion to get acquainted. The story of a French teenager with major gender issues, the film features Gallienne playing himself as a teen, while also playing his mother and directing the whole thing at the same time. Not only is this guy a total control freak, he looks splendid in drag.

Gallienne hails from the Comedie-Francaise theater in Paris and a deep love for theater courses through his veins. He even performed as a noh actor (in a documentary about Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit”) in 2006 and said in an interview with The Japan Times: “I love the way Japanese traditional art approaches gender issues — they recognize that it shouldn’t be an issue!”

Me, Myself and Mum (Fukigenna Mama ni Merci!)
Rating
Director Guillaume Gallienne
Run Time 85 minutes
Language French, English, Spanish, German (subtitled in Japanese)
Opens Now showing

This is reflected in the movie. While playing himself, he also makes a breathtaking turn as his mother, imitating her voice, mannerisms and shapely silhouette. “I especially love a woman’s hands and how she uses them for self-expression,” he says. “And the first woman who taught me to observe that was my mother.”

“Me, Myself and Mum” is based on Gallienne’s own boyhood. The director/actor grew up in a wealthy family among male siblings who apparently got all the testosterone, leaving him with zilch in the way of macho tendencies. In the movie, his father (Andre Marcon) is cold, preferring to go off on a sports vacation with his other sons rather than spend time with Gallienne. His mum is attentive but doesn’t dote; she tries to mold him into the daughter she wanted and never had, which ultimately doesn’t work for him. He’s confused — is he transgender, homosexual or just a cross-dresser who wants to turn into his mother?

A dozen things could have gone wrong with this film and the life of Gallienne. For one thing, he could have turned into a real-life Norman Bates from “Psycho.” But in the movie, as in real life, Maman’s good sense and inherent elegance prevails. She encourages her son to leave the house, his comfort zone and herself. The result is a hilarious and often poignant journey of self-discovery as Gallienne’s quest takes him from an English boarding school to a Spanish flamenco bar, a Parisian club to a German spa. The final 20 minutes goes into a feel-good spiral as Gallienne finally liberates himself from the shackles that confined him: traditional gender roles, gay culture, sexual confusion and his mother’s enormous influence.

“I’ve found the love of my life, and I know that right now, I’m not homosexual,” says Gallienne. “But life changes and who knows? Twenty years down the line I could be in love with a man.”

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