Starting off the new year with recent films…
Mama is the only other wide release film by Andy Muschietti who knocked it out of the park in 2017 with It. I remember letting Mama come and go when it released, but decided to go back and give it a look. We have a film that gets a lot of small details right, but the overall picture doesn’t work as well.
A young couple Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Annabel (Jessica Chastain) adopt his brother’s kids after they are found five years after going missing in the woods. Why were they missing? Their dad flipped out, killed their mom, and took them off to the woods to kill them. The birth father is also played by Coster-Waldau, and there is no reason for this casting decision.
So, we have two young girls who have somehow survived alone in the woods for years. They claim to have had a protector they refer to as Mama (and we do see a ghost in the opening take care of their dad…), but the psychologist thinks this is just a manifestation of trauma. Once the children move in, strange things begin happening, and now they must solve the mystery of who/what Mama is before someone dies.
Muschietti can make a film look great. The settings are wonderful, whether they be indoor or outdoor. The lighting, staging, and so forth all work quite well. Strong camera angles help to build maximum suspense. A large part of the success in this movie is the very small details in every scene. The kids trying to cook and burn food, the shadows, camera tricks, and other little things are all done very well. This is simply a fantastic looking film.
Where this one falls a bit short is the overall plot. Neither Jeffrey nor Annabel are particularly likable. The film goes out of its way to show that Annabel doesn’t want kids, but don’t worry; she’ll have her motherly instinct awoken by the end of it. Why was this a plot point? That could easily be the mantra for a lot of the decisions in the film. Instead of a coherent story, we get twist after twist and all of these curveballs leave us with an ending that is as ludicrous as it is frustrating. I would enjoy an epilogue to see how the hell anyone is going to explain what actually transpired.
The role of Mama is played well by Javier Botet, and he is unsettling throughout. However, the story of Mama is interesting—until the end when they throw it off a cliff. The film has a lot of promise, but it gets in its own way too often. I think they wanted to show how unique of a story they had, but instead too much got thrown into the pot. Muschietti has a fantastic visual eye, and It was simply wonderful. Fans of his might want to check this out, but overall it is a bit forgettable. 4/10.