Mike Roma had great success with his web series, Danny The Manny. Now he’s segued into the movies with Dating My Mother, which he both writes and directs. The semi-autobiographical movie follows Danny (Patrick Reilly), who’s finished studying film at college in LA and is now back in small-town New Jersey while he works out what to do next.
Following the death of his father, Danny has a very close relationship with his mother, Joan (Kathryn Erbe), even sharing a bed together – which Danny says is because his own mattress hurts his back. However, they may have become a little too co-dependent, with Danny unsure what to do when Joan starts getting close to a new man, Chester (James LeGros). He’s got his own romantic issues too, as dating as a gay man in a small town isn’t easy, especially when you have to rely on the vagary of apps. However, there is his straight school friend Khris, who Danny begins to think might not be quite so straight after all.
Dating My Mother is one of the small but growing band of truly independent gay-themed films to bring in some fairly well-known actors. Alongside Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s Kathryn Erbe and the ubiquitous James LeGros, there’s also GBF & The Hard Times of RJ Berger’s Paul Iacono and Kathy Najimy (who seems to be bidding for gay indie icon status after also popping up in Bear City 2 and 3). They all give their all to the film, although it’s relative newcomer Patrick Reilly as Danny who’s the heart and soul of the movie. It’s largely thanks to his charm that the potentially creepy edge of the co-dependence between mother and son doesn’t seem too weird, while also helping to cover up some of the movies messiness.
Indeed, it’s this messiness that means the movie isn’t all it can be. For example, the film has a really neat idea where, when Danny is communicating with guys on apps it brings the interactions to life as if the men were there talking to him in person. In isolation it works really, really well, but it doesn’t really fit with the rest of a movie that has no other fantastical elements. Likewise, although it has ideas about co-dependence, being lost after college, gay dating in a small town, straight dating in middle age and various other things, it doesn’t feel like it’s got an awful lot to say about them or knows where it wants to take them. That’s particularly noticeable at the end where various strands are just left hanging – admittedly things don’t get neatly wrapped up in real life, but this doesn’t feel like that sort of movie.
Although there are flaws, Dating My Mother certainly isn’t a bad film. It’s often witty, well-acted, occasionally a little sexy and, as previously mentioned, Patrick Reilly is great in the central role. Mike Roma also shows real potential as a director, with a steady hand and confidence in how to pull a scene together that goes well beyond just pointing a camera and shooting. Most importantly, it’s a film that never gets dull, with Danny a rather manic if lost force, pulling us through his (often stoned) adventures as he tries to work out exactly what he’s doing with his life.
Overall Verdict: A fun gay-themed dramedy with a great turn from Patrick Reilly in the central role. It may be messy round the edges but it’s still entertaining.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac