Saturday, July 2, 2016

Two Sides of Goodnight Mommy

The first time I saw Goodnight Mommy, I was horrified and amazed. The opening shots of this film were gorgeous; an endlessly wide scenic view and a remote mansion amongst the trees. The film starts out with two brothers running through the wilderness, intruding on whatever the land was hiding and making a game of it. Kids being kids. Bits and pieces of the story are gradually revealed, the boy's mother is introduced when she returns home from the hospital and their fantastical dream life is halted. 

Not only does she look like a foreign creature, her entire demeanor has changed in their eyes. She demands strict quiet in her house, a rule which was obviously never enforced too seriously before. So naturally, this must be a different woman.

During my first viewing, I easily sided with the twins in suspecting their bandaged "mother" was someone else completely. I ran all the possibilities through my mind and the least likely to me was that she was who she claimed to be. It seemed more likely that she was a complete stranger, hired on the internet to take over raising the troubled boys, or even that she was really the real mother’s similar looking friend under those bandages. The moments that the audience saw (but her boys didn't) only helped the case that she was someone else completely. Instructing the unsupervised children not to bother her for any reason, then pretending to be asleep when they inevitably need to called on her, these just didn’t seem like something that their real mother would do. It also felt like she was testing them for some reason. 

Even when the film takes a turn into much darker territory and the twins tie the bandaged woman up in order to get some answers out of her, I was still leaning towards their side of the battle. But whoever she was or what her intentions were, I couldn't help but pity her. 

Goodnight Mommy has stuck in my mind for a long time, because the first time I watched it, I was the only one who didn’t see the end coming as soon as the film started, and also the most disturbed by it. I think my reaction had a lot to do with the fact that I used to imagine having two sons myself, and I was subconsciously basing what I thought of the twins on what I thought of my imaginary sons… But I’ve also thought about the film a lot because it was the first time I had a totally opposite reaction after watching it a second time. I already knew what to expect, but not having that distraction of trying to figure out who the bandaged woman was allowed all of my attention to focus on how terrible this whole situation was for her. She had lost a son and husband, and the only remaining family member she had didn’t trust her on the most basic level. My second time watching it kind of put me off of Goodnight Mommy. It became so obvious that the boy's mother was the victim, and her not being that close to her sons was why she seemed so different. Why Elias didn't believe she was who she said she was. I was disturbed in a much different way that made me question whether I even liked the movie at all. 
I have yet to watch it again, and I think I’m okay with waiting a while.


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