Mama (2013, 1 hr 40 mins)
Remember how jazzed I was to see Mama, the short film expanded to full length by brother and sister team Andy and Barbara Muschietti? (https://rosemaryspixie.wordpress.com/?s=mama&x=18&y=2) Well, I finally saw it, in the wee hours of Mother’s Day, no less. This was not planned, but it’s fitting for obvious reasons.
Mama tells us the tale of 2 little girls, Victoria and Lilly, who, after their father Jeffrey murders some colleagues and his wife, are taken to a remote cabin where he intends to end their lives as well. Before he can finish his heinous deed, a ghostly figure makes short work of dispatching him from this earth. This thing, or Mama, takes care of the girls for five years, feeding them cherries as they run wild in the forest.
Jeffrey’s brother Lucas (both played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) , has been relentlessly searching for his nieces since their disappearance, and his hired trackers finally hit pay dirt. Literally, as they find the grimy little girls crouching and growling in the filthy, abandoned cabin.
They are taken to a clinic where they are looked after and studied. Lucas, with the help of their psychiatrist, Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash), gains custody of the girls, much to the chagrin of their dead mother’s sister, Aunt Jean (Jane Moffat), and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), a tough, chick in a rock band living the rock band life. It is a time of adjustment for the girls, as they learn to speak and deal with normal behaviour. Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse), the younger of the two, is quite feral, walking on all fours with a bug-like speed; hardly speaking at all. Victoria (Megan Charpentier) remembers more of her life before the kidnapping and adapts faster.
Weird things start to happen, their behaviour is obviously still weird, and the girls hang on to their secret of Mama, who has followed them to their new home. When Annabel swears she sees someone in the house, Lucas investigates only to be seriously injured after Mama shows herself to him. He is taken out of the game, and we learn through Victoria that Mama has had a terrible history, and is very protective over the girls. The story becomes a battle between Mama, Annabel, and anyone that threatens to take the girls away from her.
I was expecting a really great movie. I really loved the short film by the Muschietti duo. It looked so promising and really scary. Mama is their first big budget film produced by Guillermo Del Toro, and it was a good attempt, but only o.k. by pixie standards. Jessica Chastain worked her magic as Annabel and was really believable as a tough woman who is reluctant to be thrown into a mother role. I was also impressed with Isabelle Nélisse who played Lilly. This kid gave me the creeps, with her rotten toothed, bug eating, creepy smiling demeanour. I love Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who plays Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones, and he looks particularly delicious in Mama, but is not really stand out here. My problem lies with Mama herself. I know from monsters, and the C.G.I charactization was not that great. I would have preferred her to be more life-like and less cartoonish. Aside from a few surprise moments, she became less and less scary and kind of ridiculous, especially when she is reduced to a long scraggly wig ominously skimming the floor after its prey. There was also a scene where the psychiatrist is getting information from his secretary, and she hands him a box of remains, speechifying about ghosts and how to put them to rest. And you are…a shaman? A wiccan? A seer? Or just a story device to throw in some clarification. Kind of slap-dash. The ending was also a tad drawn out, and well, not good. In the real world, those people would have lots of ‘splaining to do for sure, crawling around all bloodied in the forest.
The moral of Mama is: don’t wig out and murder a bunch of people, then kidnap your kids and try to kill them too. Because wigging out and murder is generally a bad idea, and may lead to ghosts with bad wigs and a killer maternal instinct. Just get cats….lots and lots of cats. But I digress. I will give this film props for the eerie mood and an interesting story, but the second half was kind of a mess. I would love to see the next project by this brother and sister team, since they have promise and big name backing. Onwards and upwards, I say!
Most Memorable Line: When Aunt Jean drops by unexpectedly to visit the still somewhat feral girls, she asks, “How are they?” Annabel replies, “Outdoorsy”. Best line I’ve heard in a long time.
Favourite Scene: When the trackers find the girls in the cabin. They skitter around like creepy giant spiders, covered in dirt. Pretty much a nightmare for me. Fast, dirty children snarling at me. Yikes!