A Bump Along the Way (3 stars)

A Bump Along the Way

Bronagh Gallagher charms in the well-observed debut of director Shelly Love

The everyday trials of single mothers are a mainstay of social realist cinema but, with her accomplished feature debut, director Shelly Love takes a different approach, with a tale of a fortysomething Northern Irish woman whose surprise pregnancy causes a rift in the already difficult relationship with her teenage daughter. Working with first-time screenwriter Tess McGowan, Love has crafted a well-observed film which sensitively explores the middle-aged female experience, something that's rarely portrayed with such authenticity on the big screen.

Set in Derry, it's anchored by a lovely performance from Bronagh Gallagher (The Commitments), who plays 44-year-old Pamela with charm and grit. Mother to straitlaced 16-year-old vegetarian Allegra (an excellent Lola Petticrew) – their dynamic wilfully reminiscent of Ab Fab's Edina and Saffron – Pamela is determined to live her life as fully as her meagre circumstances will allow. With her bakery job only just paying the bills, she enjoys letting her hair down with best pal Sinead (Mary Moulds), until a drunken fumble with a 24-year-old local leads to pregnancy.

This being Northern Ireland, Pamela's options are limited – something that is portrayed as matter of fact, rather than soapboxed – and, having been told she was unable to have any more children after Allegra, she decides to embrace the miraculousness of the situation. Allegra, however, is not so convinced, particularly as news of her mother's condition sparks a fresh round of bullying at school.

While Allegra's vindictive classmates may be something of a cliche – as is the string of deadbeat dads – the film is strongest in its portrayal of female relationships. Although described as a 'geriatric mother' by her doctor, Pamela and Sinead are vibrant, sexy, full of life and determined to make their mark – societal expectations be damned. And the dynamic between Pamela and Allegra is equally as relatable, their experience not one of screaming matches and slammed doors, but of silent accusations and shared guilt.

As Pamela moves through her pregnancy, determined to fix some of her past mistakes (which, importantly, are more to do with allowing others to browbeat her, rather than her own actions), so Allegra also has something of an awakening. She comes to see her mother as an individual, with flaws and strengths as strongly defined as her own – a right of passage that every young person must go through. As such, A Bump Along the Way is not so much a film about new life, as about embracing new beginnings, no matter how old you happen to be.

Selected release from Fri 11 Oct.

A Bump Along the Way

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • 1h 35min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Shelly Love
  • Cast: Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Petticrew, Mary Moulds
  • UK release: 11 October 2019

Pamela (Gallagher) is a Derry woman with a 16-year-old daughter (Petticrew), whose life is turned on its head when she finds herself pregnant at 44. There are a few clichés of vindictive schoolmates and deadbeat dads, but Gallagher plays Pamela with charm and grit, and the mother-daughter relationship is highly relatable.