by VICTORIA ALEXANDER……If you missed The Babadook and It Follows last year, do not miss Goodnight, Mommy. A terrific, fresh thriller.
If you are not a fan of foreign language films, you are missing an element of real life that Hollywood ignores. It’s called realism. When I first saw the Japanese film, BATTLE ROYALE (2000), I said, “Well, here is one movie Hollywood will never remake.” Then Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games (2008). It became a juggernaut franchise. Soon fans of the Battle Royale book and then movie, screamed the obvious – Collins outright stole the foundational material. The outcry was so loud, she finally had to deny any knowledge of Battle Royale’s existence. Considering her career, it is impossible that Collins was not aware of Battle Royale.
Look what happened when Hollywood decided to make its version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. The first thing they did was get rid of the greatly pockmarked star of the original, Michael Nyquist, replacing him with Daniel Craig. The dumped the Swedish star and put a waif in the role Lisbeth.
Will Hollywood remake GOODNIGHT MOMMY? Of course they will. They might even hire the writer/directors, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, for the Hollywood version. But it will never be better than seeing the original GOODNIGHT MOMMY.
The story is bare and simple enough. It’s not crowded with people or fabulous locations. Identical 9-year old twin boys (played by Lukas and Elias Schwarz) are at home waiting for their mother (Susanne Wuest), a television personality, to come home from the hospital. They live in the country and are particularly isolated. The boys only have each other to play with.
I do not think ahead of the twist. I’m experiencing the movie as it progresses. I hate when people say, “I saw that coming in the first ten minutes.”
The way it is set up, I thought the woman had had plastic surgery on her face and was recovering. Her nasty behavior was due to the drugs she was on. Her face is all bandaged up and she is acting weird. She is rather mean. The boys were annoying her. Elias seems to be in charge and does all the talking for shy Lukas. She tries to separate them and encourages Elias not to rely on Lukas so much.
Elias is the one that confronts their motherafter talking things over with Lukas. They want proof. They want the woman to show them a scar their real mother has on her body.
“She wants to tear us apart,” Elias says. “She’s not our mom” they conclude.
The mother refuses and they decide they must do something. Elias keeps saying to the woman, “We want our mom back.”
This is the kind of horror story that is unique. There is no monster lurking in the basement, no dark garage, no area that does not get cell service. No stupid teenagers drinking beer and ignoring the impeding outside the house threat. GOODNIGHT MOMMY plays out in sunlight.
With the exception of two Red Cross workers that come into the house, it is the two boys and the mother. The boys are fantastic. This is completely naturalistic acting. I am not even convinced they took direction. There is an awkwardness in the boys, especially Lukas, which is hard to create. This natural, almost anti-acting is what one gets with “foreign” films.
Julia Roberts may look haggard in the TV trailers for SECRET IN THEIR EYES, but I am sure at the end of the film, we will see glamorous Julia emerge. Movie stars always want the audience to leave the theater remembering them as their glamorous self.
The movie does twist and becomes a horror story but it is so well done and inventive that – even if you see it coming – GOODNIGHT MOMMY is this year’s unique sleeper hit.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at firstname.lastname@example.org.