The Mother is a movie I had no anticipation for, mainly due to Netflix’s, as usual, poor marketing for their films. However, even after I viewed the trailer and realized the tone and premise, it felt like it would simply be another mediocre action movie with a thin plot. Trailers can sometimes be misleading, so I still try to maintain some form of optimism as I can be surprised sometimes. Unfortunately, this is another case of an underproduced, generic film that Netflix spits into its endless catalog of films that will be lost and forgotten in a week.
The film is directed by Niki Caro, who has directed films such as The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017) and Mulan (2020). So she steps into a not-so-unfamiliar type of film with an action movie. The film follows the mother (she doesn’t have a name), who Jennifer Lopez plays. The mother is a pregnant assassin fleeing from deadly assailants; she is then forced to give up her child for another life so that her daughter can live a better life, one where dangerous assassins aren’t hunting her down. The mother moves to a quiet, snowy, and secluded cabin in Alaska for twelve days until Special Agent Cruise (Omari Hardwick) informs her that her child is in danger from men who want revenge on The Mother.
That basic plot synopsis leads to a perfect action movie that you can probably leave on in the background while you do work or household chores. It’s unfortunate because some good things here could lead to a more unique and thrilling experience, but everything is primarily mediocre and won’t leave you feeling much either way. Since it is an action movie, I expected to have a visually pleasing time at least, but there isn’t a ton of action, and it’s not particularly special when there are action sequences. The way it’s directed is pretty standard, and the editing creates cuts that jump too far into a sequence that could be confusing. For instance, a character could be running towards a window they’re far away from, and the next cut will be them already out the window. It feels lazy and cheap, especially in an age where action films like John Wick 4 have longer takes and vast action sequences that show what’s happening.
To compare it again to the John Wick movies, those films barely have any plot, but they still work extraordinarily well, and that’s most akin to the directing. That works fine for action movies, but since the action is mediocre, it should rely more on the plot for audiences’ investment. Unfortunately, it is incredibly lacking in that as well. From the start, you can probably already tell the story’s basic outline and how the character arcs will be fleshed out, and you’ll be exactly right. The stone-cold Mother will reconnect with her estranged but personable daughter (Lucy Paez) after they bicker for most of the movie, and they will also go through many life-threatening sequences throughout the film. It’s not necessarily bad for people to know where the character arcs will go. The Last of Us has a similar story about a grizzled Father that connects to this little personable little girl, and they go on a journey together where they learn and grow from each other. The problem with The Mother is that nothing can elevate its simple plot. The action is decent, the themes explored are surface-level, the characters are sufficient, and the acting is only okay.
This leads to the movie being primarily harmless; however, some sequences can feel frustrating to watch. My main gripe is the relationship between The Mother and her daughter, Zoe. The Mother wants so badly to protect her daughter and to be a mother. However, when she gets the chance, she just unnecessarily lies to her, is very mean, and makes choices that make no sense other than to drive conflict between each other. There’s nothing wrong with a flawed character. They are most often the most interesting ones to watch, but the story hardly gives any depth to why the mother is the way she is and reacts the way she does to her daughter. To compare it To The Last Of Us again, it’s easy to see why Joel is cold to Ellie due to personally witnessing a traumatic event from Joel at the beginning of the story, and it’s constantly fleshed out throughout the story. The Mother hardly creates depth for the characters that can explain their actions, which makes very little investment and sympathy from the audience.
Zoe (the daughter) isn’t any better as she constantly whines about wanting to go home and makes unnecessarily stupid decisions to drive conflict; it’s very annoying to watch. By the film’s end, you see the characters grow a love for each other, but it doesn’t seem earned. The Mother tells Zoe that the brief time they spent together was the best moment she’s ever had, which is incredibly confusing because she was miserable the entire time. Even under their awful circumstances, there wasn’t even a hint of subtlety that The Mother was secretly happy spending time with her daughter. It just felt like an incredibly forced ending and conclusion for the characters to arrive at.
Despite that one frustration, the movie is pretty watchable in all other areas. It rarely ever exceeded my expectations and is a reasonably good watch. If you’re bored or wish to watch something in the background, I can recommend it, don’t try to take it too seriously. I’m not sure exactly where it went wrong in the production process, but I wish that Netflix would spend more time making these movies better. Whether that’s a bigger budget, a longer time to write the script, or more time for pre-production, it’s a waste of money for the studio, talent, and time for the people wishing to watch a great movie.
The Mother is streaming on Netflix now.