Sunday, September 27, 2015

Goodnight Mommy Dearest

In this horror film from writer-directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, a mother  (Susanne Wuest) returns home from apparent cosmetic surgery to twin boys who find her visage and behavior so alien that they are convinced she's not their real mother.  She shuts all the blinds, makes the boys stay in, and even locks them in their room.  She refuses to acknowledge one of the boys for some reason, angering the other.

I can't really tell you more without spoilers except that nothing is as it seems in this dark, creepy, brooding film.  It's beautifully composed, especially the outdoor shots of the boys playing in the surrounding woods, corn fields, train tracks, caves.  The boys, identical twins played by Lukas and Elias (also their names in the film) Schwarz, are terrific--and virtually impossible to tell apart.

After seeing the trailer, you expect this to be a traditionally scary horror film.  It's not so much scary as it is horrifying and creepy as all hell.  We see all from the boys' POV, but don't expect that POV to be reliable.

The mother's behavior is frighteningly bizarre but ultimately understandable as we get snippets of the circumstances behind her facial reconstruction.  Aside from the film's compositional beauty, also expressed in its bookend beginning and ending scenes, I was truly impressed by its subtle, elegant handling of exposition.  We learn, gradually, that there was an accident, that the mother and the father are separated.  And what we find out at the end is simply mind blowing.

There were just a couple of logic lapses for me, but on the whole the film could be regarded as a primer on the effects of trauma, particularly on how trauma affects children, who always imagine far worse than what might be the reality.

This family needed therapy big time.  It's also a lapse that it's never mentioned--it could have been a line--perhaps mother intends for them to go once she's physically healed.  Because she's one majorly depressed and traumatized person as well.

I think all of us who were in the audience were expecting a much different type of film.  This one rather traumatizes the audience as well, so that when it's over, even though the film has artistic integrity, we don't leave satisfied, not even in a wrung out way.  Goodnight Mommy doesn't offer relief or catharsis.  Just pity and fear.

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