Thursday, December 8, 2011

Breakfast on Pluto: A movie a birth mother can love

Lorraine
Breakfast on Pluto is a little known Irish movie by well regarded director Neil Jordan that is about the hero's search for his natural/birth mother in London. The "hero" is no ordinary fellow--he's a transgender "nancy boy" as gays are derisively called in England, and the story, in a series of connected vignettes set in the Seventies, is as at least as much about his troubles and travails as he flounders through life as it is about his search for his mother.

As soon as he is old enough, Patrick "Kitten" Braden (Cillian Murphy) leaves his unhappy foster home in Ireland and begins a series of picaresque misfortunes as he looks for love and place to call home with all the wrong people. All he knows is that his birth mother went to London after she deposited him at the door of the local priest, Father Bernard, played by Liam Neesom, and soon enough Kitten is going to "the city that never sleeps" to find her. All he has to go on is that she resembles Mitzi Gaynor.


Desperate people clutch do desperate things. Remember, I wrote to Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne asking if their daughter, Quintana Roo, was also mine.  After I my daughter and I reunited, I once asked her what she would have done if I hadn't found her first. She said she would come to New York on a bus and look for me. Why not go to London to search for a Mitzi Gaynor look-alike? Desperate people do crazy things.

In Breakfast on Pluto, Kitten lurches from one unhappy episode to another in a movie that is one part snappy social satire and one part gloomy Irish dirge, playing out against the backdrop of the violence between the Catholics and the Protestants in Northern Ireland of that time. Breakfast on Pluto is not by any means a great movie, but the birth mother angle and enough satire kept me interested, along with an incredible performance by Murphy as Kitten. Would he ever be able to find his birth mother since he didn't even have a name?

How he gets it is nearly unbelievable--but the film is well enough done so that the scene comes off as heart-breaking rather than absurd, as it would if I were to tell you about it here (and I'm not going to). When he does learn the truth of his origins--the full truth--my internal remote hit  "Cry." Please let him find his mother now, I was thinking. Thank god, for he does, though he doesn't reveal who he is to her in one of the most poignant scenes ever about such an interaction. Damn! I've got tears in my eyes just remembering it, Murphy's acting and the writing is that good. I remember doing something similar when I first learned who Jane was--I called her up and pretended to be doing a survey for Seventeen magazine to find out if she knew she was adopted.

From the perspective of this birth mother, Breakfast on Pluto (2006) is one of the best movies on this theme for both mothers and adoptees. The rest of the world will either love the film (as the non-birth mother friend who told me about it did ) or dismiss it as trivial. The director has two more famous movies in his ouevre, The Crying Game and The End of the Affair. Don't be surprised when Stephen Rea makes an appearance as a possible savior for Kitten. But you know he's not. Kitten has to find his mother first before his life can get better.--lorraine
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For more on my contact with Didion:
Joan Didion's Blue Nights is really an adoption memoir


6 comments:

Robin the Editor said...

I had never heard of this movie. It looks like there is also a book.

FYI, Check out the December 2011 issue of Redbook magazine (Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum is on the cover). There is a nice article about Julie Mannix and her reunion with her daughter whom she relinquished in 1964. It paints a good picture of the thinking of the times towards unwed motherhood.

Robin the Editor said...

http://www.redbookmag.com/kids-family/advice/adopted-daughter-found

Lorraine Dusky said...

Great story!

I misread and for a moment I thought Hillary Scott (love lady Antebellum) was a reunited first mother. --thanks

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting movie! Is he gay or transgender? They are not the same thing.

Lorraine Dusky said...

It's not totally made clear. Seems more transgender than gay but...

Angela Wheelock said...

Hi Lorraine,

Sounds like a very interesting movie. I'd never heard of it. You did an excellent job of describing it without giving too much away. I'll look for it.

Angela