Mama: Ghoulish Horror Meets Maternal Self-Sacrifice

I believe this movie stirred something in me. Perhaps the feelings I had for my '97 sea foam Geo Metro? That was a similarly creaky and stressful thing that I'd have preferred to chop up for parts.

For good or for bad, Mama opens with a far more chilling scene than any of the film's subsequent ghostfoolery:  It's the beginning of the Great Recession and a freshly-ruined man in a suit runs horrific errands around town—first, shooting partners in his office and eventually making his way to his estranged wife and children. After a sad, heavy gunshot in an unseen room, the man kidnaps his two young daughters by car (naturally, the license plate: reads "N1 DAD").

Here's your warning: This rest of this review will contain some spoilers.

Action continues to unfold at a quick clip:  A dangerously fast drive through snowy mountains sends father and kiddos careening off the road. After everyone miraculously survives the crash, the girls are death-marched along until they come upon a cabin (even by this point, the movie had dragged to an extent that I was more interested in the fact that the cabin was full enviable, though certainly soiled, midcentury décor) where they take up shelter. You know where this is headed—dreadful dad is not long for this world. At a point, one of the little girls exclaims, "There's a woman outside—she's not touching the floor." I fervently wished for mystery's sake that we wouldn't see the woman, but we do. Dad is swiftly gone, and his daughters won't be found for another five years.

When the girls resurface, they are wild, malnourished and developmentally-deprived—and their rescue is due to a long and costly effort headed by their uncle, Lucas (curiously played by the same actor as dreadful dad; Game of Thrones red alert, it's Jaime Lannister).           

But the ostensible star of Mama is Lucas's girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain). We're first introduced to her on the toilet as she praises the sky over a "not pregnant" First Response stick. Also know this:  She plays bass in one of those craaaazy rock and roll bands, a fact that comes up enough to barfingly commit to memory.

If the subtle urine test wasn't enough, I'll clarify that Annabel doesn't want children. Though, it doesn't matter—for several reasons, she and Lucas become guardians for the girls.

And increasingly, it's clear that the children weren't fully alone in the woods for those five years.

So what of the mama that doesn't want to be a mama? Annabel's story has a clear and breakneck transformational advance. She begins as a cagey and capricious character, but with every hug and bedtime tuck-in, Chastain's face and voice seems to soften and warm. By the film's end, Annabel is wholly made over—strong and heroic, ready to lay down her life for the girls. The framing feels clear:  Accepting motherhood is the brave route. And we, the audience, should like her more now.

O Annabel, I wish you could've just gone on tour with your shitty band.

To make a recent horror film parallel, I have to do the unthinkable and admit to watching a 2011 Joey Potter-Holmes vehicle, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark; there, also, a damaged child helps a stepmom gain the truly warm glow of audience approval when she submits to maternal self-sacrifice. 

Guillermo Del Toro co-wrote and produced Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, by the way—and while he only takes an executive producer credit here on Mama, I doubt more involvement would have been helpful.

Many people have praised the visual imagery of Mama, and I can only partially understand why. There's one nutty and over-saturated dream sequence that's remarkably pumping and visceral. But, look, I'll never be scared by liberal use of CGI. As Mama's determined visage floats near beds and peaks around shoulders, she might as well be Woody in Toy Story.

There is one other pervasive (and strangely sweet) theme in Mama:  Your mother, as you know her, is simply a person who cares for you, full stop. It doesn't matter how you found her, it doesn't matter what she looks like. They can be biological, or an adopted step-bassist, or a ghoul who throws cherries at you in the woods; if she cares for you, that's Mama. 

Comments

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I liked the CGI until the

I liked the CGI until the second half of the film, especially the very end, when they revealed her completely. It was more effectively scary when she was partially obscured.

Ah yes, that stereotype.....

I haven't seen this movie yet, but have been excited about it ever since the preview. The lighting and cinematography really stood out as unique, and the fact that the "step-mom" character wasn't a stereotypical mom appealed to me as well.
But I am familiar with this plot, it is all too common in TV and movies. The anti-motherhood character is almost obnoxious in how self-centered they're portrayed, and they only become more likeable as they tone down....themselves and become self-sacrificing moms. But speaking as a woman who had a kid way too young and has had to struggle with the balance between my own identity and motherhood, I can see what this kind of character is born from. If you're not a natural born martyr type, settling into motherhood is a challenge for anyone. For most women in fact, even those who are naturally self-sacrificial. It doesn't mean giving up your career, your dreams, and your identity, but it does mean missing out on things from time to time, not getting to sleep in as often as you'd like, and having to take care of another human being at times when you really don't want to....like really, really don't want to, to the point where you wanna sulk off and pout about it. Especially if you're a single mom.
Also, this makes me think of a girl I know, and I think others may know the same type of girl....they harp on how they could never ever have kids because they're way too selfish and how much they hate relationships and men and they're SO obnoxious about it. Then you start noticing they do it even more when guys are around, as if they're presenting a challenge for men to come in and "tame" them out of their selfish ways and turn them into the marrying, baby-making kind. Time really tells the truth with these girls because the second they decide to get married and have kids they're total nazis about it - the opposite of everything they used to be. Just another example of where screenwriters get their ideas. I'm sure they knew someone like that.

Mama played by actor Javier Botet

I haven't seen the film, but I was fascinated to discover that Mama herself is not a CGI creation, but a real human actor named Javier Botet. He has Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that grants him long, double-jointed limbs that for some very creepy movements: http://www.themarysue.com/mama-monster-behind-the-scenes/

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I give Sofia Coppola a lot of credit for not writing into the script a sexual relationship between the two. In Hollywood this would be like taking the financier's money and not worshipping at his or her feet. http://h886.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=149114 When you are watching PlanUt Earth you may get to an envirOnment that they begin to speak about that upright looks unknown`to you. Some of the things that are in the surroundings look as??if it was not realistic and you
Gracie Hart is cast as an unattractive, disheveled, bumbling FBI agent who has no life beyond her 24/7 commitment to her job. When it is determined that a wacko, serial killer has set his sights on a Miss United States beauty pageant, Agent Hart is a reluctant last choice to go undercover. http://www.huizhanshow.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=28868 Henry VIII's new Chancellor of England and Cardinal--Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield)—stands in his way as well. Henry VIII wants Sir Thomas More's blessing in his action but does not get it as Sir Thomas More, a good Catholic and Cardinal, will not go along with such heresy.
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Henry VIII subsequently dies of syphilis, and the evil Thomas Cromwell who orchestrates Sir Thomas More's tragic demise is himself judged a traitor to England 5 years later and is also beheaded. http://www.zgsf.com.cn/home.php?mod=space&uid=111936 What happens in their exploration is really nothing special. As a viewer I was waiting to see where their relationship was going because they came to no conclusions together, or on their own.
"Kingdom of Heaven" Sought to Be an Epic Film, But Became a Disaster in Production http://www.717r.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=12500 Great effort is made to convince More to change his stance on Henry VIII's action. One of More's rivals, Thomas Cromwell (Leo McKern); another religious, Cardinal Wolsey (Orson Welles); and The Duke of Norfolk (Nigel Davenport) all take their turns at More.
The riff subsequently leads to England's split from the Roman Catholic Church and the creation of the Anglican Church, the Church of England. http://mobipayforum.hwaexpress.com/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=56518 Kingdom of Heaven - 1 Star (Terrible)
Sir Thomas More loses his head (no pun intended) but most importantly, not his soul. Sir Thomas is later canonized as Saint Thomas More by the Roman Catholic Church. http://www.zhoushanmama.cn/home.php?mod=space&uid=189263 Coppola reportedly left hundreds of messages before Murray finally called back to discuss her offer to cast him as the star. Coppola apparently knows something about selecting actors who win awards.
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Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley http://www.hnustbbs.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=5295780 What's not to like is this: People who seek true love seldom find it. People who seek the perfect mate never find the perfect mate. People who seek to find the true meaning of life seldom find it.