Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Remember Mama

Of all the movies airing on Mothers' Day on TCM, I'm surprised to see that I haven't blogged about I Remember Mama before. It's airing at 8:00 PM ET.

"Mama" is played by Irene Dunne. She's the matriarch of a family of Norwegian immigrants, living in San Francisco in the years just after the great earthquake of 1906. It's not a particularly easy life, as money is always tight, and there are a lot of kids to feed. Among the kids are Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes), an aspiring writer who narrates the movie; apparently she goes on to become a successful writer and these are her stories.

To be fair, that's really what the movie is about. There's no big overarching plot to I Remember Mama. Instead, it's almost a series of vignettes about a woman looking back on her childhood with the fondness that most of us do even if childhood wasn't always a bed of roses. Indeed, even though none of us here grew up in the era in which the story is set (at least, I don't think we have any centenarians here), the movie shares a lot of resonance with almost any era. Katrin has a couple of aunts who seem a bit too proper and don't particularly like Uncle Chris (Oskar Homolka), who is a bit of a free spirit. It's a dynamic that appears in any extended family. There's laughter (see the way Mama gets to see her son after visiting hours when he has to go to hospital), tears when death comes as it must to all families, and some surprises along the way.

I Remember Mama is a bit reminiscent of Ah, Wilderness in that both movies are slice-of-life movies set at the beginning of the 20th century. But there are several key differences: I Remember Mama is from a woman's point of view; it's told over a longer period of time; it's set in a lower social class; and there's even less in the movie that could be objectionable than there is in Ah, Wilderness. Remember that Ah, Wilderness has a scene in which the young adult son meets a woman who is not the sort of women with whom gentlemen cavort. There's nothing of that in I Remember Mama.

In short, I Remember Mama is a wonderful movie for the whole family. The only possible problem is that it runs over two and a quarter hours, but to be honest, it goes by much faster than that.

No comments: