As the title of the film implies, Mom and Other Loonies in My Family is both a personal and light hearted film. That doesn’t stop it from being informative, and reverent of the struggles that the family overcame throughout the tumultuous 20th century. Case in point: Hungary lived through many dramatic and even horrific events, from Comminist ruling to anti-Jewish laws. What remains central to the film, however, is that it is the story of a family and its history throughout the 1900s. Even more than that, it is a story told by an over ninety year old mother to her fifty-something year old daughter in the present day. Therefore, it comes with its fair share of nostalgia.
The story was inspired by filmmaker Ibolya Fekete’s own mother, as well as he own family history. The personal touch can be seen throughout, from the particular distinctive peculiarities of the characters portrayed to a stunning attention to art direction and props, embellishing the film. Another aspect that embellished Mom and Other Loonies in the Family is its awareness of the fact that cinema ws born at around the same time the film’s narrative begins. This is shown by some of its stylistic choices, embracing the cinematic style of its times, sometimes actively incorporated in its narrative. In fact, Mom and Other Loonies in My Family not only includes relevant archive footage within its story, but also burrows the style in which films were shot at the time.
A central gimmick of the film is that the titular mother moved 27 times in her live. The film, in fact, kicks off with her moving near her daughter’s house. Struggling with old age and dementia, played by over 100-year old actress Danuta Szaflarska (a stunning feat in itself is that she is featured here in a show-stealing performance), she still shows signs of wit and sharpness when recollecting the old days. But the theme of moving is also terribly recent, given the widespread habit of migration in today’s society, a trend that has never really dies down, even when done apolitically.
Mom and Other Loonies was made in a tight budget. Sometimes, the ambition of the story, despite its creativeness and craft, does not meet its ambition. The numerous cast of characters can be one of the overwhelming things about the film, taking the attention away to some elements that should remain central. For an outside viewer, it is a nice introduction to Hungarian history, but Fekete’s film is most probably more rewarding when taken as the charming story of a family’s turn of generation, which after all, is what it aims to be.