Streaming Releases: Mobile Homes (2019) Reviewed

America is a diverse country, filled to the brim with all types of people living as many different lives in as many different income brackets as one can imagine, and more. Most often, the characters we meet on the screen are wealthy, or, at least, middle class; they are those that the viewers envy, or aspire to become. Recently, there's been a trend showcasing the lower class side of the country, those who live their lives without the luxury of stability, who make due any way they can, morals and legality aside. French filmmaker Vladimir de Fontenay's Mobile Homes is his attempt at showcasing this more unseemly side of America. 

Premiering at Cannes along side Sean Baker's similarly themed The Florida Project, de Fontenay's film is beautifully shot and acted, but that is where the similarities to the aforementioned end. Where The Florida Project was clearly made with a loving touch and has a bright, beautiful, but heartbreaking, message about it's characters, Mobile Homes is bleak, dark and cold. There is no illuminating breakthrough, there is no new information given to the viewer, nothing to further the understanding of people living different lives than the viewers may lead. Because of this, it's hard to walk away from this film not feeling like de Fontenay failed. The film is not entertaining, unless you count constantly worrying about the safety of an eight year old child for two hours entertainment (this reviewer does not). Truly, it's hard to see this piece as anything but condescending, especially when you take into account that the filmmaker isn't an American. 

Saving the film from complete disaster is the phenomenal cast. Imogen Poots (Green Room, Popstar) is nothing short of incredible as the film's lead, Ali. Poots is believable, and she brings a warmth to the character that the script clearly never establishes. Sharing the screen with Poots, are Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald) as her good for nothing boyfriend, Callum Keith Rennie (Jigsaw) as her would-be savior, and the adorable Frank Oulton as Ali's son, Bone. All three of Poots' co-stars shine as well, which leads the audience to deeply regret the filmmaker's tonal choices for the film. As good as the actors are, as much depth as they bring to their roles, they can only play the scripts they're given, and it's clear that de Fontenay views these characters as "lesser than," so much so that the actors can't quite ever overcome it. If the camera spends the entire film looking down its nose at its subjects, there really isn't much actors can do to save it, regardless of how impressive their performances may be. 

With Mobile Homes, de Fontenay may have intended to give his audience an inside look at the lives of the lower class drifter, but it comes off as sneering, judgmental and exploitative. If you're looking for insight, or a window into how other people live, Baker's The Florida Project is much more enjoyable to watch, much less condescending, and therefore, a much more effective, resonant film all around. Mobile Homes doesn't ever manage to move past cold, and that's exactly where it leaves its viewers. 

-Josie Stec