Self-depreciating comedy has never been better presented or as immensely enjoyable in recent years as the new ‘my life story’ from French actor-film director and Comédie-Française Company member Guillaume Gallienne, Me, Myself and Mum – winner of the Directors’ Fortnight Award at Cannes 2013. Gallienne’s memorable, camp portrayal combines a sometimes fluffy, sometimes achingly poignant flare of the ridiculous, bizarre and outrageous that openly invites us to laugh through the highs and lows of his intriguing life experience from childhood to adulthood.

Opening like a stage show piece, Me, Myself and Mum begins with Gallienne’s flamboyant monologue explaining his position in his family and his unconditional love for his mother, an imposing, well-groomed woman of money and stature who does not suffer fools gladly and finds it hard to express emotions (also played by Gallienne in drag). What follows are a series of vignettes that range from his dressing up sessions as a period heroine, to unfrequented love spurned on the playing field, to comical moments at a German health spa. Ending in his adult years, Gallienne’s finale is a curve ball surprise.

Original title ‘Les garçons et Guillaume, à table’, which translates as “Boys and Guillaume, come to the table”, a call to come down to dinner, gives the first clue as to the filmmaker’s confusing, gender-bender relationship with his mother who treated him like the daughter she never had and always wanted. The whole film starts and ends with reference to this line while we enjoy his quirky coming-of-age moments in between. His amiable, naïve and effeminate manner will resonate with all, while raising questions as to the ‘nature or nurture’ debate of developing sexuality. Indeed, by portraying his mother too, Guillaume delightfully relates nuances and expressions shared by both.

The frenetic style mimics and compliments the emotional journey young Gallienne takes as he tries to figure out his place in the world while adding to the unpredictable nature of the whole affair. Gallienne demonstrates a natural storytelling talent too, not merely relying on the often-outrageous nature of events to drive the plot but a considered and sensitive narrative to explain key moments and direct the mood beforehand – as in theatre, we are prompted when to laugh out loud and when to fear the worse. Apart from the protagonist and some stereotypical characteristics of the French aristocracy, none of Gallienne’s characters can be clearly labelled or defined, seemingly as ‘confused’ as him as to what life has in store. This sets up the ending nicely, one that flies in the face of the expected but brings a warm glow of contentment and justice all the same.

Gallienne is the androgynous clown minus the costume that wants us to laugh and cry with him. For some the theatrical element might take some adjustment but it anchors the story and echoes Shakespearean saying of, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. Gallienne suggests just that: go into this with an open mind for any possibility to arise ahead while thoroughly enjoying what made him, him.