In movies, a neglectful or absentee mother is just about the worst thing a person can be.

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In movies, a neglectful or absentee mother is just about the worst thing a person can be.

Think of the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, in which a homeless father tries his best to make a place for his young son. As the woman who leaves when the going gets tough, Thandie Newton only had enough time onscreen to create the impression of an uncaring harridan. Even an actress as accomplished as Meryl Streep had a tough task humanizing a mom who capriciously abandons her husband and son in the divorce drama Kramer Vs. Kramer.

Writer-director John Barnard’s low-budget, locally-lensed film Menorca actually starts with the Kramer Vs. Kramer premise, except it follows the mom character on her journey of self-gratifying self-discovery.

We are introduced to Claire (Tammy Gillis), boozily luxuriating a post-coital afterglow with not one but two lovers. Her sense of propriety isn’t entirely abandoned: when she hears her husband and son pull up in the car, she pushes the pair out the door. But it’s clear Claire is approaching a breaking point.

That comes in a subsequent scene when she is suffering an obligatory appearance at her son’s soccer game. Claire can’t bring herself to be as loudly supportive as the other mothers. So she ducks out of the game altogether by stealing the minivan of another mom and taking off for cottage country.

FARPOINT FILMS</p><p>Menorca tells the story of tough and self-absorbed Claire's journey of self discovery.</p>


Menorca tells the story of tough and self-absorbed Claire's journey of self discovery.

The film holds the promise of some kind of erotic odyssey. But Barnard, taking a cue from his unpredictable heroine, veers into stranger territory, encompassing the bizarre and the mythic.

The bizarre part comes when Claire hitches a ride from the beautiful, tough Jenny (Sheila E. Campbell) and finds herself intrigued by Jenny’s workplace, a rural strip club populated by silent old men and operated by Lila (Talia Pura), a ruthless businesswoman with a smidge of cult leader.

The mythic part involves a rock Claire carries with her, a rock with a face carved on it. It’s a memento of a family vacation to Menorca, Spain. We learn her son brought it home and then decided it should go back from whence it came. It’s a mission Claire takes upon herself, but until she does so, she carries the burdensome rock herself like a self-punishing Sisyphus, doing penance for self-indulgence and deceit.

It makes for a decidedly unique drama, mysterious and prudently erotic. Barnard has a task getting us onside with Claire, but Gillis proves to be a bit of canny casting. Her Claire is tough and self-absorbed, but also possessed of a caustic wit and honesty that allow us to feel the same kind of sympathy we normally allot to the preponderance of troubled male characters out to find themselves.

randall.king@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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