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Goodnight Mommy


Directed by Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz

Written by Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz

Starring Lukas Schwarz, Elias Schwarz & Susanne Wuest

Film review by Dean Pettipher

Tentatively tiptoe with terror on a journey composed with evidently tenacious craftsmanship that testifies to the tremendous amplification of creative flair resulting from an effective, finely clicked double-team endeavour. Helmed by a pair of directors who are very familiar with each other’s working methods, courtesy of a documentary that they made together in 2012 entitled Kern, Good Night Mommy, completed two years hence, will, with good reason, warrant even greater progression in their filmmaking careers. Previously unknown facets of the definition for the word, disturbing, might surface within the mind at the sight of corrupted innocence sparked by unshakeable obsessions throughout a psychological thriller that is not dissimilar, with its high frequency of throat-clogging imagery of suffering and insightful explorations into the fogged boundaries between the two most juxtaposed states of human sanity, to Shutter Island (2010).

The extent of the scarring impact felt as a consequence of the movie, for better or worse regarding the psychological welfare of the audience, is hindered by a pace that on occasion grows painfully slow, primarily fuelled by silence and drawn out exterior shots screaming unnecessary inaction, testing the patience for even the most dedicated fans of mystery, thriller or horror features. The grip of curiosity also gradually loosens upon the hearts of veteran film lovers who relish the chance to dive into the realms of mystery, like children running with glee into a hedge-maze without a map or a guide, seeking to figure out plots, which are almost entirely dependent upon their ambiguity for maintaining viewer attention, as fast as they can, so that they might feel highly intelligent in the eyes of their peers sat in a contrasting state of confusion, or simply enjoy a chase-like ecstasy for themselves alone. Nevertheless, all are saved from total boredom on numerous occasions by beautiful cinematography of a lush, predominantly emerald green forest surrounding an isolated home that is at once a peaceful sanctuary and then a striking source of pain. The baton of entertainment is not infrequently passed onto another double act; young twin brothers, Lukas and Elias Schwarz, who play characters of the same first names so masterfully that they might easily capture the spotlight from other current child stars like Jacob Tremblay, who has recently been inspiring minds and massaging hearts for his award-magnet performance in Room (2015). The greatest reward, however, is given by impeccable timing of vicious camera movements building up to and displaying torture of body, mind and soul with bold, ruthless efficiency. Be warned. Proceed into the process of swallowing the sip of a drink, particularly a strong alcoholic beverage, or a handful of warm, salty popcorn, or perhaps a portion of a freshly cooked, ketchup-covered, cheesy hotdog at the wrong moment, then all of the rich, taste-induced joy will vanish without a struggle, replaced by an earnest sense of desperation for the characters, bound by blood, locked in bitter conflict upon the silver screen. While at the time less than desired, such a reaction might be appreciated as a good thing, for there are sometimes fewer indications of a good drama picture.

If the treasure sought in the movie theatre is a chance to test the capacity rooted within for handling shocking scenes that rarely stray into the realms of over-the-top events worthy of ridicule, then there is nothing to fear in taking a chance with Goodnight Mommy; an impressive feat of Austrian cinema that does not quite summon enough power to become perched upon the overcrowded shelves of long-term memory but certainly throws a strong enough punch to draw out a decent amount of emotional blood from a persevering captive audience, for whom the psychological thriller is a proudly-declared favourite.

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