Mobile Homes

In the recent tradition of American cinema focused on a forgotten, transient generation, Andrea Arnold’s American Honey is the high-water mark. However, with Mobile Homes Vladimir de Fontenay has made a film which effectively captures the diasporic lives of those who feel ignored and unwanted by mainstream society. Ali (Imogen Poots), her selfish boyfriend Evan (Callum Turner) and her young son Bone (newcomer Frank Oulton) live out of a van which they drive from town to town, rest-stop motel to rest-stop motel and scrape a living by selling whatever they can get their hands on, whether that be second-hand generators or drugs, and dining-and-dashing to avoid paying for their meals at grimy burger joints.

While Ali and Evan are partners in crime, their motivations are not the same. Evan breaks the law because he feels as though as he has been abandoned by the system and is justified in doing whatever is necessary to get ahead, whereas Ali begrudgingly follows suit not out of any personal sense of entitlement but because she is desperate to provide for Bone. When the three of them are caught up in a drugs bust by police, Evan demonstrates just how far he will go to protect himself, even at the expense of his girlfriend’s young son. This motivates Ali to take Bone and leave Evan to try and start a new life with which she might be able to provide a safer and happier existence for her child. She meets Robert (Callum Keith Rennie), a builder of mobile homes, who offers her a job and somewhere to stay. Finally, it seems as though she may have succeeded in escaping from a vicious cycle that so many young people find themselves trapped in.

However, Ali’s own personal doubts and fears, as well as the reappearance of an unwelcome face, threaten to drag Ali and Bone back into a life of instability and unhappiness. It is at this moment that the one single question the film is ultimately concerned with comes to the fore; is it possible to escape from such a troubled past unscathed, or are those who try ultimately doomed to fail? Furthermore, can personal sacrifices help to save others from eventually being trapped in the same vicious cycle? Vladimir de Fontenay explores these issues in Mobile Homes, a dark drama with real emotional power and impact.

★★★

Tim Abrams