Goodnight Mommy

September 27, 2015 at 7:45 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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I noticed recently that I give a lot of 3 1/2 lozenge ratings; it appears to be my fall back for a movie that is more than just “I’m glad I saw it” but less than “I loved this film.”  I’m going to try and get off the fence over the course of this review and decide if this film is a 3 or a 4. This German thriller (“Ich Seh Ich Seh” was the original title) follows the relationship between twin brothers, Lukas and Elias (who look to be 9 or 10) and their mother, who has just returned home after major surgery. But, is she really their mother? Her head is entirely wrapped in bandages, except for her piercing eyes. She seems different, acts different. Where is the mole she used to have? Why is she so punitive and suspicious? What happened to the cat, anyway? The boys’ fears grow deeper as they become convinced this woman is an impostor and they hatch a plan to try and find out where their true mother is. This has all the right elements of a great thriller: an engaging mystery, people trapped in close quarters together, some child endangerment. Yet, it takes forever to get going. The first 45 minutes of the film moves mostly languidly and with long stretches of silence. There was so little tension, I was at risk of nodding off. Not a good thing for a thriller. However, things suddenly switch dramatically half way through and the remaining 45 minutes are a wild ride of increased tension and horror. While the first half is vaguely creepy/unnerving, the second half is full-on creepy/cringe-worthy. I understand why this had to be the case. The film is built on a massive (and clever) conceit and, if the twist is going to come as a surprise, the emptiness of the first half is a necessary evil. The twisting this film does, and there is definitely more than one, makes its final scenes great thriller fun. In addition, young brothers, Lukas and Elias Schwarz, are terrific in their roles and the audience gets totally drawn into their world. The end itself is quite a shocker and there were gasps in my audience. All great stuff for a thriller. And, yet, it’s a long slow set up for that pay off. Was it worth it? Was it… yeah, I think it was.


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