A much more modern tale of family dysfunction is about to go on display when the 2008 Mill Valley Film Festival offers audiences a sweet new Canadian film entitled Mommy Is At The Hairdresser's (Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur). Written by Isabelle Hibert and directed by Lea Pool, the film centers on a Quebecois family whose mother (Celine Bonnier) is a local news reporter and whose father (Laurent Lucas) is a physician who would much rather spend time playing golf with his friends than pay attention to his wife. Their oldest child, Elise (Marianne Fortier) urges her mother to listen in on one of her father's phone calls with catastrophic results.
The mother (portrayed by an actress with an uncanny resemblance to Christine Baranski) erupts in anger and asks her boss to transfer her to the London news bureau. She leaves behind a clueless husband and three very confused and hurt children. The middle child, Coco (Elie Dupuis) is busy trying to build a go cart with spare lawnmower parts. Their youngest son, however, is a special needs child.
Benoit (Hugo St-Onge-Paquin) is an adorable tyke who is gifted, dyslexic, has some behavioral problems and might suffer from mild mental retardation. When his mother abandons the family, he begins to act out as chaos engulfs his previously secure and loving home life. Meanwhile, Elise finds a curious father figure in Monsieur Mouche (a deaf mute with a large port wine stain on his face), who arrives in his tiny trailer each year to camp by the river and make fishing lures.
Over the course of the summer, Mouche teaches Elise how to fish, a prying neighbor, Madame Paradis (Paule Ducharme) is constantly scandalized, and whenever anyone asks about Simone's whereabouts, the children reply that their mother is at the hairdresser's. Only when the children see their mother reporting from London on the television screen does the complete failure of their family hit home.
This is not a great film, but it has a singular charm and is worth watching simply for the superb art direction by Patrice Bengle as well as Michele Hamel's period costumes. The trailer only gives a hint of the movie's subtle appeal, which lies mostly in the questioning eyes of the angelic Benoit.