MOVIE REVIEW: Goodnight Mommy

Directors: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Writers: Veronika Franz (screenplay), Severin Fiala (screenplay)
Stars: Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz, Susanne Wuest

Twin boys are enjoying their summer in an peaceful and free countryside in Germany.  Their Mother comes home after a dramatic surgery to her face and things start to chance.  Lukas and Elias have to struggle with the new attitude of their loving mother.  They move to dramatic measures to see what lays behind the true change in their Mommy.

Part of me, and I have to admit this, love when a film is just about a relationship that is changing because of a trauma.  Nothing else happens but a few people in a room and they work stuff out or their relationships destruct like the Death Star at the end of Star Wars.

When this film started and through a fair amount of the running time I thought that this was exactly what I was getting.  I was quite happy in that comfort, and then the kids started their little investigation, and interrogation, and then I felt amazingly uneasy during the rest of my cinema experience.  I want to thank the Writing and Directing team of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz for what is one of the best psychological thrillers and one of the best reasons to consider that Vasectomy that I’ve seen in years.

The easy going start of the film is a lure, bringing you in to a comfort zone of what you think is going to be a subtle story about a family starting to heal after a tragic accident.  The boys are trying to understand their world now, the parents have divorced, and Mom seems to have a problem with one of the boys.  But their summer is going well with the countryside offering a lot of adventures for them.  When Mom finally comes home and friction starts between her and the boys you start to get a deeper picture.  A former TV host and having to have extensive reconstructive surgery she’s not having a great time of it.  But is it really Mommy?

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The two boys are using their real first names in the picture and fulfil both ends of the spectrum for child actors.  The first is beings full of wonder, and the end is being enough for you to think to cut off your wedding tackle straight away.  They are brilliant and menacing and I hope that they continue on their careers on screen because they’ve already got the talent, they just need continuing parts.  Mommy is played by Susanne Wuest, while sinister she played Mommy as an understandable character because anyone with any experience of trauma will know what she is really going through.  The reality of the situation and the ultra natural performances and sympathetic filming make you fall into a false sense of security.  The start of the film is just a beat or two too slow, it’s the only downside to this brilliance.

The jarring voltage of the violence and the terror that goes on when the boys decide they’ve had enough of Mommy and think that she is an imposter made me feel uncomfortable.  Now feeling uncomfortable in a cinema is either ‘Oh my Gosh. This film is so bad I feel uncomfortable!’ or as in the case of Goodnight Mommy it’s simply the best kind of uncomfortable that you can feel in a cinema.

The simple premise is matched by intelligent film making that knows how to shock and how to twist the audience around so that they don’t know what to expect next.  The three main performances are superb and other words that mean amazing.  If in Dublin check out this terror inducing movie at the IFI.  If outside Dublin, and I hear that there is an outside Dublin, then financially support this movie in any way you can, buy the DVD/Blu Ray, find it on Netflix, Amazon, or any way to pay to see it.  If we pay for movies we can get awesome, and we all need more awesome cinema.  Goodnight Mommy is a film that I’m going back to see time and time again.

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