“LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!”— Mother and Daughter

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“Look at Us Now, Mother!”

Mother and Daughter

Amos Lassen

Mildred is Gayle’s mother and the two women have had a rather complex relationship. That is just what this film looks at—- the changes that take place in the mother/daughter relationship. We see this via the filmmaker’s own story. The relationship here shows some insights into the mother/daughter bond as it is forming.

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Opening in New York and Los Angeles on April 8, the film shows insights into family dynamics and behavior from several different perspectives—generational, societal, cultural and individual. We are taken on a journey that spans decades and continents and is filled with conflict and emotions. It is an intimate story about family dysfunctions and forgiveness. It is filmmaker Gayle Kirschenbaum’s story about her relationship with her mother, Mildred. Kirschenbaum looks into her mother’s childhood and as she does, she relives her own life and the experiences she has had with emotional abuse, self-doubt, and resentment. There is reconciliation and it is her hope that the film will help other who are seeking reconciliation. She hopes the film can help others seeking reconciliation. The film is both poignant and very funny and those who have had a stereotypical Jewish mother will love this.

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Kirschenbaum tells us that she has always found her mom to be mean and highly critical. Mildred, her mother, is unable to understand why her daughter won’t get a nose job or find a husband. 

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We explore why the women resent each other and get to read some of the director’s journal entries from when she was young about how her mother had humiliated her then. Mildred speaks about her difficult childhood and her sadness after her husband of more than 50 years died. 

The dysfunction is quite heavy but Kirschenbaum was able to find a way to share both the rudeness and tenderness of the women. Mildred says some incendiary things yet she has a lot of good things to say about her director daughter.  The film mixes comedy and observation to present a fascinating look at family dynamics.

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Mark Twain once said that every daughter complains about her relationship with her mother but no one ever does anything about it. He did not know Gayle Kirschenbaum.

The journey ends in a moment when Kirschenbaum and Mildred are at a film festival in France where she realized that she was able to reframe the way she my mother. She pretended that her mother was a little girl and did the same for herself and she saw two youngsters who were hurting. It took a long time and a lot of effort to get to that point because as she was growing up, her outrageously extroverted mother encouraged her brother to tease her and beat her up.

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.Kirschenbaum, who grew up on Long Island, always felt hurt and persecuted within her own family, as her extroverted and often outrageous mother, Mildred, encouraged her brothers to beat her up and tease her. Mildred criticized Gayle a lot because of the way she looked—she wanted her to be a Jewish American princess like other girls. (I had two in my family).

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Kirschenbaum studied art and became a successful television documentary producer. She decided to make a film about her mother and began looking at her father’s 8mm home movies. She read her parents’ love letters from the time that her father was in the military and she learned a lot about her family including about the trauma that her mother had experienced in childhood and had never spoken of. This is quite a film and one you should try to see.

“Look at Us Now, Mother” opens on April 8, 2016 in New York City and Los Angeles.

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