Underground Film Journal

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Short Film: Matthew Silver’s Mother & Son

By Mike Everleth ⋅ September 21, 2010

And you thought you had mommy issues! Embedded above is the one of the most shrillingly hilarious short films ever, Matthew Silver‘s family shout-fest Mother & Son. “Mother” is Grandma Ping who is tormented by her son Andy and his constant recriminations and oddball behavior — all delivered at the top of each others’ voices. (Per YouTube uploading limitations, this film is in 4 parts that should play consecutively once you start it above.)

I originally saw this film way back at the 2001 New York Underground Film Festival and even though I saw dozens of short films then — and probably thousands since — this is one that really stuck with me. I guess all the screeching and yelling just really imprinted themselves on my brain. Grandma Ping and Andy are such great characters, too. They seem ready made for their own reality show. Too bad this was shot before the current reality craze.

While Ping and Andy ares clearly performing for the camera, the film still feels like a quasi-documentary. Andy’s complaints about Ping’s poor child rearing skills have too much of a ring of truth to them. Don’t most children have similar feelings, even if they’ve buried those feelings way deep down in the subconscious? Although the film is a comedy, Silver is really hitting on some solid truths and emotions, which is another reason why this film is so memorable. It’s not just a cheap laugh and then we’re out of there.

A man wearing glasses poses with his elderly mother

However, the segment where Andy washes his socks in the bathtub — I don’t know where that comes from. It’s a heightened element of absurdity in an already absurd film.

I also really admire Silver’s camerawork and the ability of Ping and Andy to stay in character during the multiple setups that each scene entails. They’re very natural performers, keeping their cool as the camera bobs, weaves and zooms in and out of the action. Plus, the quick style of editing truly mimics and amplifies the manic energy of the performances. It’s a film that seems intended to make viewers incredibly nervous while they’re laughing.

If you want to learn more about Matthew Silver, who is still making films, please visit his official website, Man in White Dress. His latest film, Love Comes Out of Your Butt, is also currently making the rounds of the underground film festival circuit, so keep an eye out for that.

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