“The journey to a better life is derailed by a succession of wrong turns and bad choices in Mobile Homes, a downbeat tale in which a house never quite becomes a home. The feature debut of Vladimir De Fontenay is an accomplished piece with a committed central performance from Imogen Poots (A Late Quartet, Jane Eyre), but the emotional impact is lessened by an air of predictability and the sense that every bit of fresh hope is destined to end in disappointment.
Poots’ rootless drifter Ali is quickly established as a woman who will do anything for her eight year-old son Bone (engaging newcomer Frank Oulton) apart from the right thing. She constantly flaunts the line between independence and irresponsibility as the boy is left to his own devices or allowed to wander off alone. “He knows how to get home,” she tells one concerned social worker.
Struggling to stay afloat, Ali and boyfriend Evan (Callum Turner) drift from cheap motels to random nights in abandoned homes (the film was shot around the Niagara Falls area). Meals are consumed at diners where they run away and never pay the bill. Income is earned by supplying birds for illegal, underground cockfighting matches, which De Fontenay captures discreetly. The dream is to make enough money to secure a place of their own and build a future together.
The story is at its most involving when Ali and Bone are given the chance of a fresh start working for kindly mobile home contractor Robert (Callum Keith Rennie; Born to Be Blue). Ali learns that she is capable and able to stand on her own two feet. They finally start to put down roots and create the brighter tomorrow that has been their goal.
Adapted from De Fontenay’s award-winning 2013 short, Mobile Homes has an aesthetic reminiscent of Andrea Arnold’s films. Rooted in the daily realities of people who have no part in the American Dream, De Fontenay uses camerawork that floats and looms to create an intimacy with the characters. The film is always interesting on a visual level as we travel from the murky interiors of shadowy bars to the mud and snow of the American heartland.” (Allan Hunter, Screen Daily)