Twin boys move to a new home with their mother after she has face changing cosmetic surgery, but under her bandages is someone the children don’t recognize.
Alright, so I will start positive here, as I like to do when I can. The actors portraying Elias and Lukas, Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz (you can figure out who played who I’m sure), are fantastic. Casting real twins in this really does make it that much more effective, and they both give excellent performances as the boys unsure of who this woman, claiming to be their mother, is. They deliver on the tense parts of the movie really well, and still manage to have a balance between their being children, and then being able to do what they do later on in the film.
Goodnight Mommy is a hard one to talk about without getting into spoiler territory, so I will be as vague as possible about the end of the film. What I will say is, based on the American trailer for this movie, this was not the movie that I expected to see. That’s not to say that it was bad as a result, but it’s tone and presentation really felt very different. A great example of this is a scene from the trailer that makes it look like the titular Mommy chomps down on a great big cockroach, but it’s actually two scenes, only one of which has anything to do with cockroaches. It’s also easy to think, from the trailer, that the mother has her face bandages on the whole movie, while in fact they come off in the first 40 minutes or so.
Trailer issues aside, there’s the issue of the story itself, while it starts of strong and really makes you wonder if this woman is an impostor or not, the movie’s ending feels a bit unearned, and almost could have benefited from leaving things vague and uncertain. I know that we tend to give a pass to foreign movies, as a North American audience, because who doesn’t like to feel smart for watching a movie with subtitles? A great example being the only mediocre film High Tension, which gets touted around as MIND BLOWING all the time. Overall, this movie ends on a note that would be maligned in English-speaking movies, at least in my opinion, and feels a little bit unearned.
The film is effectively tense from the beginning, and does boast some very disturbing scenes that I’m sure people will be talking about, I wasn’t keen to floss after watching the flick for example. It’s also beautifully shot, each scene looks great and there is a lot of grim violence that is delivered in ways that don’t force you to stare at it like most horror films love to do. There’s power in what is happening off screen, which does seem to be a rarity these days.
At the end of the day, the movie is effective. It builds great tension, and does keep you wondering what is happening until the last few minutes. The ending just doesn’t work for me, and I do wonder what others will say or have said about it. My hopes might have been a little high, but it’s not one that I would tell you to skip. This one falls right down the middle for me, with good performances and cinematography but a story that falls a little bit flat in the end.