Mother Tongue

Created by Ellie Taylor, The Pitch 2022

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Ruth had planned to tell her husband that she was filing for divorce, but instead, he died. Left struggling with her guilt, grief, (and a shameful sense of relief), Ruth hosts a wake/party at the house they once shared. But when hungover Ruth awakes the following morning, she discovers her grieving mother-in-law hasn’t left; in fact, she appears to be moving in. Plagued by the presence of this grieving woman, dressed as death, Ruth fears she will be forever haunted by a family member she never asked for and doesn’t want. Frustrated, Ruth demands that her mother-in-law leaves, immediately. They’re not family and Ruth wants to restart her life. Struck by Ruth’s clear desperation to reinvent, the mother-in-law transforms into a maternal figure, setting aside her own pain and grief to offer Ruth kind words of healing and love - something orphaned Ruth has never experienced before. Humbled by the feeling of unconditional love, Ruth is persuaded to let her mother-in-law stay. She is family, after all…. Mother Tongue is a comedy about recovery and respect, twisting outdated ‘mother-in-law’ clichés in favour of something altogether more human, relatable and bittersweet.

Biblical Connection

Mother Tongue is inspired by The Book of Ruth, specifically the concept of one woman’s devotion to another in hardship, and the creation of a powerful, female, relationship, forged through loss. Mother Tongue is therefore a modern undertaking of this Biblical story, with some notable changes, crucial for its successful adaption. In Mother Tongue, Ruth is widowed; I want to challenge preconceived ideas that becoming widowed is intrinsically linked to becoming old. Equally, marriage is not presented as a route to her recovery. In my adaptation, Ruth bonds with her mother-in-law when she listens to her - their relationship is forged with words, rather than actions, because Mother Tongue seeks to highlight the importance the words/language of our mother figures have on us throughout our lifetime, (hence the title). I also strongly feel that this source offers the most exciting route into creating a unique short, one which genuinely has something new to offer the comedy genre. We are drowning in comedic narratives that focus on ‘mother-in-law’ jokes; Mother Tongue is an opportunity to tackle this outdated, often misogynistic humour, creating a female led narrative which is challenging how we present older women on film.