I'm Glad My Mother Is Alive (2009) Poster

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7/10
Identity crisis
Chris Knipp2 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Veteran French director Claude Miller collaborated in both writing and directing with his cameraman son Nathan for the latter's first directorial effort in this adaptation of a true story about a son abandoned by his mother who reconnects with her at age 20 with negative results. The up and coming young actor Vincent Rottiers adds considerably to the believability and complexity of the main role of the disturbed young man. This was a project delayed for thirteen years, originally under consideration by Jacques Audiard. Though the senior Miller's work can be pedestrian and derivative, the directorial involvement of his son breathes life into this impulsive, rather troubling effort. Finally the story however has a somewhat slight and anecdotal quality, though it shows the potential of Rottiers, also seen this year in Xavier Giannoli's exciting con-man story, In the Beginning/À l'origine.

The film begins with flashbacks that skip back and forth in time, beginning with the adoptive parents on holiday with Thomas and his younger brother Patrick/François when they are twelve and nine, respectively. Later flashbacks go further back to show scenes of the brothers with their birth mother and the day she signs off on their adoption at a foster care center. Thomas is four at time of adoption, his brother one. At twelve, Thomas Jouvet (Maxime Renard) is obsessed with finding his birth mother and blames his adoptive parents for his not knowing her. He's a handful to deal with, constantly acting out. Eventually he manages to persuade a registry office "fonctionnaire" to reveal his mother's name and coordinates and he goes to find his mother, Julie (Sophie Cattani), but bolts when she opens the door, pregnant, without recognizing him.

The adoptive parents, Yves ( Yves Verhoeven) and Annie (Christine Citti) are long-suffering; in fact there's a slight hint that Thomas' aggressive behavior may help push Yves into the depression that eventually leads to his being permanently institutionalized.

Annie, however, is strong and sweet, and when the narrative skips forward to eight years later when Thomas (now Vincent Rottiers) is twenty, now working as a garage mechanic and with his own car. He seems on the right track, and is a loving member of his adoptive family, sharing in visits to Yves, affectionate with Annie. François (Olivier Guéritée), now seventeen, probably doesn't even remember Julie and is a champion skirt-chaser. Thomas still keeps to himself, and one day looks up Julie, arriving with flowers and chocolates. She is still in the same flat but now alone with her young child..

A strange relationship develops in which Thomas seems to see Julie partly as his long-lost mom, partly as a potential girlfriend; the latter signaled by his addressing her as "vous" rather than "tu." From here for a while Thomas leads a double life, halfway moving in with Julie and her child, and halfway still the son of Annie, going back and forth, lying to Annie about another job and a girlfriend. The game doesn't last for long, and ends in a very unexpected way.

This awkwardly titled film is well done in its individual parts, and there's evidence of the senior Miller's skill in dealing with tales of troubled youth, but structurally it doesn't altogether fit together and the flashbacks assume a disproportionate role. It is either too long or too condensed. It might work better in two or three parts of a miniseries. Or the introductions might be somehow greatly compressed and the final segment, where the chemistry between Sophie Cattani, who plays the birth mother, and Vincent Rottiers, as the adult Thomas, the latter alive and yet dark and mysterious, makes for a troubling and suspenseful series of scenes -- which might better have come somewhere earlier rather than past the midway point.

Je suis heureux que ma mère sois vivante debuted at Venice and opened in Paris September 30, 2009. Understandably it got good, but not great reviews. It was shown as part of the March 2010 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema co-sponsored by uniFrance and The Film Society of Lincoln Center and shown at the Walter Reade Theater and IFC Center, New York.
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6/10
Vincent Rottiers excel in Taboo subject matter
saadgkhan27 June 2012
Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante – I'm Glad my mother is Alive – CATCH IT (B) Based upon a true story the movie revolves around a young guy who was given for adoption along with his brother by his callous mother. His obsession with his mother from being toddler till adulthood is explored in the movie. Even though she gave him up for adoption in age 5, he never forgets her and always keeps searching for her. And when he finds her its really hard to determine what exactly goes in this troubled young mind. As he still crushes on his mother and treat her as the woman he is love with rather than a Mother. The taboo subject matter explored in very dark way. I don't know whether it was good thing or bad thing as director didn't push the envelope, because if he would have pushed the envelope it would have been ranked as one of the most indigestible movies of all time. Here the director played it safe, and didn't go deep within the young guy or even his mother's mind. The whole movie relies on Vincent Rottiers's creepiness. He truly excels in the movie as creepy, confused, and hot tempered jealous guy. I don't why but I really loved Christine Citti as the adoptive mother, she was soo maternal. Sophie Cattani played the role of the despicable mother to her acting capabilities. I think she could have been great but since there is no as such reason for her being a callous besides being pregnant at 17, she couldn't do anything else. On the whole, Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante is a good time pass movie about a subject matter no one wants to talk about Ever!
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8/10
A Fascinating, True Tale of the Possible Manifestations of Adoption
gradyharp21 January 2012
I'M GLAD MY MOTHER IS ALIVE (Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante) is a deeply disturbing film based on a true story that explores the spectrum of adoption and the effects on the children placed for adoption, the biologic mother and the adoptive parents. It goes places other films on the subject have dared not go, and since this is based on a true incident it is another example of fact being stranger than fiction. The film was made in 2009 by the father/son duo Claude and Nathan Miller, based on the story as written by Emmanuel Carrère and adapted for the screen by Alain Le Henry and both the Millers.

We meet Thomas Jouvet (a splendid performance by Vincent Rottiers) at age 20, riding the train, his face reflecting that of a troubled young man. Through a series of at times confusing flashbacks we learn that Thomas was given up for adoption as a toddler, or as he sees it 'abandoned by his mother', and as a misguided lad he becomes obsessed with tracking down his birth mother. The flashbacks begin with the adoptive parents Yves (Yves Verhoeven) and Annie (Christine Citti) on holiday with Thomas and his younger brother Patrick/François at ages twelve and nine. The adoptive parents are frequently at odds with Thomas who is an obstreperous child, acting out his feelings of disturbed behaviors with not being truly wanted. Further flashbacks show scenes of the brothers with their birth mother Julie (Sophie Cattani) and the day she signs off on their adoption at a foster care center. Thomas is four at time of adoption, his brother one. At twelve, Thomas Jouvet (Maxime Renard) is obsessed with finding his birth mother and blames his adoptive parents for failing to inform him about her. Thomas is determined to find his birth mother and manages to persuade a registry office worker to reveal his mother's name and address. He finds his mother, Julie, but when Julie opens the door, very pregnant, she doesn't recognize the twelve year old Thomas and Thomas flees. His adoptive parents are unable to cope with Thomas and it is suggested that Thomas' combative behavior is part of the etiology of Yves' depression - an illness that eventually leads to Yves' being institutionalized.One day he looks up Julie, arriving with flowers and chocolates. She is still in the same flat but now alone with her young child.A strange relationship develops in which Thomas seems to see Julie partly as his long-lost mom, partly as a potential girlfriend, a relationship with her which slowly drives him to an act of madness. Time moves forward eight years and Julie, the birth mother, now with a eight year old son Frédéric (Quentin Gonzalez), softens and Thomas, now twenty and working as a garage mechanic and with his own car seems finally on the right track, and is a loving member of his adoptive family, sharing in visits to Yves. François (now Olivier Guéritée), at seventeen doesn't remember Julie and is far more interested in chasing girls than in his birth/adoptive background. Thomas remains a loner. From here for a while Thomas leads a double life, halfway moving in with Julie and her child, and halfway still the son of Annie, going back and forth, lying to Annie about another job and a girlfriend. Eventually the confused and tortured life of Thomas ends up in a very unsuspected way - an incident occurs but it is not as it appears, and the results provide a very surprising ending to this strange but very true tale.

Watching this film, discovering the reason for the choice of title, takes some patience on the part of the viewer. The non-linear aspect of the story is often distracting but in the end it seems to have been the only way to allow us to understand the motivation of Thomas and the odd ending. Vincent Rottiers is exceptional as the very disturbed and desperately needy Thomas and the final scenes between Thomas and Julie are exceptionally touching. The film is in French with excellent English subtitles. This is a strong cinematic art piece about a subject that needs exploration. Despite the minor flaws in the picture it is well worth the viewer's time.

Grady Harp
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8/10
Excellent, believable portrayal of tragic events
nwnyc15 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I found this movie totally captivating from start to finish and I believed the way each of the characters was portrayed. The emptiness left in Thomas' as a result of his mother's inability to express love for him deeply enough was clear from start to finish. It was not told in a contrived, cut and dry way and was, instead, full of subtleties that seemed true to life which apparently confused some other reviewers. I never found myself confused. I had not heard of the true story and just wanted to see how this young man's unhappiness played itself out. It hinted at the possibility of it developing into a sexual acting out and I never really expected it to go where it went. Bravo to the writers, actors and directors for telling this tale so well. All the actors did a great job and those young children who acted in the movie were especially amazing.
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6/10
Dark
roedyg15 April 2012
This is based on a true story, and the screenwriters did not tidy up the tale. It meanders frustratingly. You keep waiting for some development. The story is quite confusing since it involves three similar-looking brothers (and possibly more) two sets of parents, a three sets of actor one for each brother at different ages. To add to the confusion, the story flits back and forth in time without clear time frame cues.

The children are endearing and convincing actors, but all the adults are rather unlikeable, rude, selfish people. The main mother is also infuriatingly irresponsible.

It plays with the Oedipal urges, complicated by the ambiguous web of who is who's biological parents.
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