Mama: A Review

3 Mar

Two young sisters, a short sighted Victoria aged 3 and Lilly, aged 1 are taken from their home by their dad who is clearly distraught, upset and angry. He bundles them into a car and over the radio news, we learn that the dad, Jeffrey. has murdered his wife  and is trying to get away. We follow them as they drive through snow and icy roads. The car crashes in the woods and they find their way to what appears to be a a secluded cabin. However, there seems to be something evil lurking inside…

Five years later, the girls are discovered in a feral state, are medically assessed and with the aid of Dr Dreyfuss, who specialises in child psychology/psychiatry, are placed in the care of their painter/artist uncle Lucas and his rock chick girlfriend Annabel, much to the chagrin of the aunt, Jeanie, the sister of the childrens’ deceased mum. However, the prospect of looking after Lucas’ nieces proves to be challenging and brings its own sinister secrets and daunting experiences.

Victoria has progressed and can communicate quite well, whereas Lilly is still relatively insular, with an animalistic nature and is drawn to the as yet unseen character known as Mama. As time progresses, Victoria is quite happy to accept the blurred vision of Mama  but gradually begins to take comfort in the real love and affection which Annabel provides. One day,  Victoria decides to keep her spectacles on and face the being which has haunted their young lives. It is at that moment that we, as the audience also share the clarity of the vision and Mama is revealed in her true nature. It’s a screamer of a scene.

Haunted by nightmares, the two adult protagonists begin to unravel the story of Mama and it reveals a historical story of madness, mental asylums and death.

All the child actresses are absolutely adorable, endearing and carry the film effortlessly. As the story unfolds, one is drawn into their world as much as the adult one. Their dialogue is short, concise and conveys messages, feelings and emotions in a simplistic manner. An incredible achievement for such young talent. It remains to be seen if they transform into successful stars and establish themselves over the years, as we know from tabloid press and interviews, making that transition from child star to bona fide adult star is a struggle for many.

From the visionary director Guillermo del Toro who gave the world surreal fantasy/drama Pan’s Labryinth, comes another tale of love & death, courage, sacrifice, jealousy, motherhood,  the role of a mother, and touches of the age old nature/nurture debate.  ‘Mama’ is an engrossing piece of fiction that explores the duality of a parent’s role – to protect children from harm and the possible repercussions of what would be if a parent is to become so overtly protective that the parent becomes jealous, insecure and obsessive. Words that spring to mind are learning to let go; standing up for what you believe in, and what appears to be the ultimate sacrifice = to allow a loved one to go in order to survive.

Mama seems to  draw on the edge-of-the-seat psychology of ‘The Shining’, the fixation and obsession of ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’, the spine-chilling tingles of ‘The Exorcist’ and shades of ‘The Poltergeist’. Yes, we may have seen it all before – the doctor finding and going into cabin in the  woods and Jeanie investigating forms of abuse in the family home provide predictable endings for these two characters – but Mama has re-packaged the thrills and shock surprises for a modern generation of cinema-goers.

As clichés go, it’s a nail biting, edge of the seat horror/thriller with a fantastical ending which would have you crying and calling out for Mama!


The Learned Kat


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