Je suis heureux que ma mère soit vivante
France, 2009, 91 min
Claude and Nathan Miller’s nuanced and provocative film, based loosely on real events treated in an article by writer and filmmaker Emmanuel Carrère, depicts the troubled life of an adopted boy. Twelve-year-old Thomas lives with his younger brother and kindhearted adoptive parents. He has dim memories of the mother who gave the two boys up at a young age, and the perceived betrayal still affects him deeply. Frequent scraps with classmates result in Thomas being sent to boarding school, where he manages to track down his birth mother, a woman named Julie Martino, but doesn’t speak to her. Eight years later, Thomas, now a taciturn garage mechanic, decides to visit Julie, now the mother of another young son. This encounter, and the subsequent relationship that develops between them, is fraught with tense emotion as it builds to a surprising conclusion. Claude Miller, an expert director of actors, draws multilayered, moving performances from Vincent Rottier as the older Thomas and Sophie Cattani as Julie. I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive doesn’t make any grand statements about adoption but rather presents a particular character portrait about regrets and bottled-up feelings. After more than 30 years in the business, Miller—working here with his son, Nathan—adds another impeccably crafted drama to his impressive roster.