A Bump Along the Way SBIFF 2020

A Bump Along the Way Reviewed by Zane Stull

A Bump Along the Way is a film made in Northern Ireland by director Shelley Love. It was the opening night film of the 2020 SBIFF. I thought this was a very interesting choice for the opening night film. It is a comedy drama that tells the story of a single mother and her artistic daughter and how they deal with an unexpected pregnancy. [Spoiler alert] It is the mother not the daughter who gets pregnant.

The movie is shot very intimately. Many scenes take place in the family kitchen. This consistent backdrop allows the audience to more readily pick up on the evolution of the characters as they react and change to events. I was surprised by how unsupportive the daughter Alegra was of her mother. For most of the movie, Alegra’s character comes across as unlikeable. However, upon reflection, I have come to realize a lot of her attitude and actions are justified. Alegra has two main conflicts. Her conflict at home with her mom and her conflict at school with the other students who withhold popularity and acceptance from her. The film seems to portray Alegra’s priorities being with school and she avoids interacting with her mom. She comes off as ungrateful because, while her mother is trying to be better, Alegra doesn’t acknowledge her attempts until she reaches her low point. Alegra creates a convoluted problem for herself when she lets her friend date her crush, but then gets drunk and opens up about her feelings. It is a very teen rom-com-esque moment. She seems to finally realize her mom and herself are in fact fallible, imperfect and they both make mistakes. Alegra decides to run from her problems before understanding that had every opportunity to give up on her and run but she didn’t. One of the central themes of the film is to accept our and others’ imperfections and embrace and encourage their striving to improve.

Although the characters are hard to like for much of the movie, I feel that the actors were very good. The slow pace and the many intimate interior shots place high demands on Bronagh Gallagher and Lola Petticrew, the mother and daughter, but they come through with outstanding performances, probably the strongest element of the film. Although Northern Ireland is unfamiliar to me, the production design by Patrick Creighton captures the dingy and depressing atmosphere of the city of Derry and of Pamela’s home with many thoughtful details that convey the feel of a long-lived-in, struggling to get by past and present for this family.

I overheard some audience members express dissatisfaction with “the long depressing journey” the film took them on. I think they were strongly relating to the worry and anxiety that an unexpected pregnancy can cause for a family already struggling. And Pamela’s irresponsibility and carelessness in getting drunk and pregnant further exasperated them. Initially I felt the same way. However I believe the filmmakers view this story as a test of our charity and empathy. It is Pamela’s unworthiness that makes supporting her more difficult, but this challenge can serve as an opportunity for all of us to stretch the bounds of our compassion and be the better for having had “A Bump Along the Way.”

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