The umpteenth feature for French veteran Claude Miller and the first as director for his son, Nathan, I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive focuses, unsurprisingly, on family ties, although the kind you’ll find here are more likely to choke than comfort. Five years old when his mother (Cattani) gave him up for adoption, Thomas (played as an adult by Rottiers) can remember her face but not much else—a small mercy, since a flashback shows her sticking his bawling infant brother in the hall so she can enjoy an undistracted one-night stand.
The Millers shuttle unobtrusively between time frames, intermingling Thomas’s formative years—notably as his relationship with his adoptive parents becomes increasingly troubled—and his early adulthood, when he makes the fateful decision to reconnect with his birth mother. Barely 17 when she had Thomas, she’s more like a peer than a parent, enough so that their uncomfortable relationship starts to take on a smattering of sexual tension.
There’s a nagging vagueness to this aspect of the movie, one that’s difficult to square with the opening claim that it’s based on real events; at a certain point, you may wonder which events they mean. The climax answers that question, at least, though it also feels like an abrupt lunge for importance in an extraordinary movie that had done just fine without such narrative leaps.