Bubble Gum

By Maya Cozier | Drama
A young mother sleeps in a car with her daughter, as she contemplates her next move.

A mother has pulled off the road, where she sits behind the wheel in the driver's seat. But the car isn't going anywhere. Instead, mom is taking a moment to herself, trying to get her thoughts and energy together.

In the meanwhile, her daughter Tai waits, asking if she can have another piece of gum. But really, she wants her mom to be a mom: to play with her, pay attention to her, and go home. But the mother must pull herself together before she attends to the next task in her life as a parent and a young woman.

Written and directed by Maya Cozier, this gorgeous, beautifully crafted short drama is more a portrait of a parent and child than a conventional narrative, with its filmmaking offering an immersive sensorial experience focused on textures, sights and sounds. The cinematography and composition, capturing the warm, bleached landscape of an almost idyllic setting, are exquisite: these are images so evocative, you can imagine the way they smell.

The focus on the sensory isn't just poetic for poetics' sake -- it captures the way that mother and daughter are suspended in a moment of exhaustion, with the daughter waiting patiently for her mother to rejoin her in the present moment. True to the main character, the dialogue is spare, with most of it coming from the daughter, who doesn't quite understand what is going on with her mom. Questions begin to emerge: why are they out in the car so long, and why don't they go home?

Young performer Kayleigh Carmino-Greene plays Tai with a natural appeal, with her impatience and confusion unforced and understated, while actor Shana Fernandez plays her unnamed mother as both lovingly warm but also overwhelmed and exhausted. When Tai gets restless and squirms and finally asserts herself, locking her mother out of the car, her mother gets overwhelmed and gives up. But that clues Tai into the seriousness of her mother's fatigue, and a larger despair that's overtaken her.

One of the unspoken dictates about motherhood is never letting a child see any worry, anxiety or suffering on a parent's part; many parents feel the pressure of having to be strong and stoic in front of their children. Yet mothers and children often share so much time and proximity that a child inevitably notices a parent's moods or struggles. "Bubble Gum" is a vignette that presents a child's perspective in the situation, when she sees her mother's vulnerability and humanness after a small but pointed power struggle. This moment changes the daughter's understanding of her mother and may be a small but poignant moment of change. We may not know exactly why mother and child exiled themselves from home for a while, or what's going on with the parents -- we're restricted entirely to what the child knows -- but in the end, they embark on their journey once more, perhaps having returned to themselves and one another before returning home.

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