After creating the web series known as Danny The Manny, a series about a gay male living in Hollywood trying to juggle life as a babysitter and a struggling actor, director Mike Roma has re-collaborated with the star of his show, Patrick Reilly, to make the innovative yet heartfelt dramedy Dating My Mother which is Roma’s feature film debut. Despite Danny The Manny not having the same story, Roma was able to pitch it as being in the same vein as Dating My Mother in order for the film to get funding.
“It’s a very similar tone but the storyline is different,” says Roma. “The tone was in the same world as Dating My Mother so I was able to use that to pitch the movie to actors as a visual sample and say, ‘Hey, I’m a proven director that can bring something from paper to the screen’ and then, I could also use that when pitching to family friends that invested in the movie.”
The story of Dating My Mother depicts the turbulent relationship between a mother named Joan (Kathryn Erbe) and her gay son Danny (Reilly). The film follows their experiences with online dating along with Danny trying to figure out what direction he wants his life to go in.
The typical narrative in coming-of-age queer films involves students in high school. But Dating My Mother revolves around a protagonist coming to terms with his sexuality after college. Even if it isn’t a typical “coming out” narrative because Danny is someone who has been out since high school, Roma still wanted to show how he’s been living in the past due to him flirting with his high school crush and returning to his hometown.
“He’s trying to figure out how to be queer in this very purposefully white picket fence suburb,” says Roma. “And he’s trying to sort through his identity and I wanted him to be a very strong character.”
However, despite the film centering on Danny, the character of Joan still serves as the film’s beating heart and according to Roma, she is based on his own mother. It was also important for him to depict a parental character in a film depicting a gay youth that has some sort of middle ground.
“I think a lot of times, you get the father character that’s like evil or absent and then you get the mom character that is just totally coddling,” says Roma. “I just wanted to make the latter relationship a lot more nuanced.”
Neither Carol Brady nor Mrs. Bates, Joan is a mother who hopes for the best for her son yet she still isn’t afraid to vent her frustrations when he makes a big screw up and she is brilliantly brought to life by Kathryn Erbe. Equally as amazing in a supporting role is Kathy Najimy, who audiences may remember from Hocus Pocus and the Sister Act films, as Joan’s close friend Lisa. According to Roma, Najimy was actively involved in the creative process of bringing her character to life.
“She really elevated her role and really dug into the script with me,” says Roma. “She’s very good at about streamlining things but also, adding a lot of humor to even the most innocuous of lines. The lines I didn’t think had a lot of humor in them, she really found it.”
Interestingly, when Roma finished filming Dating My Mother, the experience of making it literally brought him back home because he edited it back on his mother’s place and while staying there, he was able to gain a newfound perspective on his past home life. Roma was able to enjoy the quaintness of his past suburban life by relaxing at his old home and even playing with her mother’s dogs, appreciating the little moments in life that make living it worthwhile despite there being inevitable hardships.
“It’s funny because I look back at those really quiet moments of just chilling at home and there’s something really nice about it,” says Roma. “But I think one of life’s biggest challenges is learning to appreciate the moment with flaws and all.”
After crafting the brilliant Dating My Mother, Roma looks to both create a new web series and go back to where the journey of the film’s production began by turning Danny The Manny into a television series.
“I’m hoping to take it into some labs programs, get a mentor, and partner up with an experienced show runner of some kind,” says Roma.
Whether he brings his vision to the big or the small screen, Mike Roma will surely win the hearts of audiences with his heartwarming yet earnest filmmaking voice. Dating My Mother, a film that will surely have viewers calling their mother afterwards and is a good film to view on Mother’s Day, shows that he’s off to a promising start.
Read our film review of Dating My Mother