Updated: Jul 5, 2020
Directed by: #Daan van 't Einde
Written by: #Daan van 't Einde
If a film is technically adept, it does not make it easier to like. Daan van ‘t Einde’s latest release, Love, Mom is without a doubt adept in the technical department. With art direction by Lisa Berkhuysen lit in a contemporary fashion, the soft blue-purple lighting of the bedroom is marked-out strikingly from the night-scenes of the exterior world, whether in the clean space of a metro car, a dim train station, or a strangely depopulated street. This is a film that is competent in its aesthetic.
That being said, there is something slightly off in the make-up department’s otherwise clean look, the eyes of the eponymous Mom (played by Florence Belle) a little too post-tearful. Admittedly, she is weeping at her catch-22 position: a mysterious man (played by Kevin Tuhipua) is coercing her into terrorist bombings at the threat of her infant daughter’s life. More on this later. The unconvincing eye-make-up seems a minor criticism, but given the film’s obvious melodramatics, the glaring mascara makes it clear that from now on subtlety will be hard to find.
With a plot like this, Love, Mom should be a straightforward in-out routine in existential morality, like any good hostage film. On paper it has all the potential to explore the nature of parental ethics, or the motivations that lead to terror attacks, which, if held together and squinted at for long enough, begin to look like the same thing. Both require undying belief. Both (depending on one’s outlook on parenting) lead to countless ruined lives. But to do this with any degree of sensitivity takes huge skill, not to mention thorough understanding of the concept. Flatly predictable performances from both leads make this impossible to realise.
Moreover, the actors themselves cannot be held entirely to blame. In van ‘t Einde’s directorial vision something is lacking. The stock narrative of bad terrorist bomber blackmails good mother is cut-and-paste material, and this is exactly what the director-writer commits, with little exploration of motive for either character. The mother does what she does through some unwritten natural law. The terrorist does what he does because he is a terrorist, suavely dressed, armed like an assassin, but with no real dramatic depth. It is sad to think of the opportunities missed in reprising this well-known concept.
To return to the technicals, Arjan van Tricht’s score is unsurprising but effective, and the exposition in the film is handled with adroitness. Through a diegetic news-reader (Floris Boone) paired with the newspaper headline on the mother’s lap, the viewer is able to connect the vastly disparate elements of what has happened with only a fistful of shots within one-and-a-half minutes. This simple staging paired with linear montage creates every element of possible suspense needed for the viewer to begin asking questions. But the answers never go beyond the cul-de-sac of the tabloid-paper or the sentimental TV drama. With technical ability clearly shown, it is a shame that Love, Mom is not easier to like.