(The gist: Goodnight Mommy is slow burning suspense that almost lost me until the twist and explosion of concluding violence snapped me back to attention and made the movie for me.)
I have always found twins to be creepy. I have known twins in life; I have twins in my family, but something about the idea two looking identical just freaks me out at times. Children are also inherently frightening, so the combination is very effective. Case in point, the twin girls in all renditions of The Shining (how appropriate for the Stanley Film Festival!).
Goodnight Mommy begins when Lukas and Elias’s mother returns home from having drastic facial surgery. She is convalescing and recovering under her bandages, yet the boys gradually become convinced that she is no longer their mother. Ultimately, they decide to find out.
Goodnight Mommy is very slow and subtle. The pace of the story creates a slow burn, cultivating a deep questioning and good amount of suspense and doubt around if the mother is still their mother or if the boys are in fact correct.
The intrigue and the mystery comes from the idea that their mother could have been replaced. The plot suggests the alienation of the basest familial relationship, and that makes it understandable why the young boys would be so desperate to have their mother back. The whole time, I wanted to know, and I oscillated between thinking she was still their mother and not.
Much of the scenes have minimal dialog. There is dialog between characters, but so much that you expect to be said seems more implied. In many scenes, I found myself thinking what they should be saying. My ability to do that means the filmmaker’s are successful in suggesting the interaction. Yet I wanted to hear it; I wanted that action.
At times, I struggled with the pace. I caught myself nodding off in the theater a couple times, but it was not the fault of the film that I stayed up drinking at the Stanley Film Festival opening night party. I could appreciate the deliberate slow burn of the pace, but at a certain threshold, I just really wanted to see the plot culminate.
The twist made the film for me. In retrospect, perhaps I should have seen it coming the entire movie. It is one of those twists that makes you wonder how you could have missed it. In either case, it worked on me and made me love the movie.
Creepy children, suspense, and a twist made Goodnight Mommy a very enjoyable watch.