Director: Andrés Muschietti
Writer: Neil Cross, Barbara Muschietti, Andrés Muschietti
Based on: this shortfilm
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nélisse, Daniel Kash, Javier Botet, Jane Moffat
5 years ago, Lucas’ (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) twin brother Jeffrey went on a killing spree, then kidnapped his daughters and disappeared with them into the woods. Now the girls Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) and Victoria (Megan Charpentier) have been found. Somehow, they managed to survive on their own out there. But when Lucas and his girlfriend Annabelle (Jessica Chastain) take the two of them in under the supervision of psychologist Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash), Annebelle soon begins to wonder how alone the girls actually were and what followed them back to the house.
The first hour or so, Mama was a tense, stylish masterpiece. But then the film loses drive and I had my problems with Mama’s backstory and the ending.
The cast was mainly great. Jessica Chastain showed again how wonderful she is and the kids were pretty good, too – especially Isabelle Nélisse. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau seems to have a penchant for roles you expect to be more than they end up actually being (see also Oblivion) which is a shame. There was one pretty grating performance by the woman who played the record keeper. Here the writing was especially on the nose and she performed everything so overdramatically that it ruined the effect a bit.
Generally towards the end the movie just overdid things and lost coherence for coolness sake. Like the skinlike, oozing walls: they looked great but there is no real explanation for why it looked like that or how it worked. And I like things to have (a semblance of) an explanation. At least they attempted an explanation with Mama’s backstory, but I would have wished for something a little more … let’s say creative. The crazy woman who lost her child shtick is a little old. Also, I was really irritated by the way Mama looked. First of all, she already looked extremely weird while she was still alive and then her face just looked fake and unnatural, but not in a scary way when she was a ghost/demon/whatever.
And the ending… I don’t know what to make of it. The way Annabelle just gives Lilly up and how it is kinda treated as a happy end that that 6 year old falls to her death and transforms into a butterfly or something… Nah, that just didn’t work for me. Probably because I’m seeing this again from a pedagogic perspective and just because Lilly is so much wilder than Victoria and doesn’t see Mama’s cruelty, it’s not really good to just not fight for her. I understand that Annabelle had to make a choice in that moment, but the movie could have at least done us the decency to treat Lilly’s death as a tragedy and not as a romanticized “now she’s with her chosen Mama in heaven” approach.
Anyway, I’m probably thinking way too hard about this, but it just bugged me. But that is not to say that the movie isn’t fantastic in the beginning. I was really creeped out, there were a couple of good scares (though the biggest was in The Conjuring trailer they showed before) and I enjoyed it.
Summarising: Still worth watching for the first half.