There have been a number of films about motherhood, but there’s never been one quite like Mother (or Ema in its native Estonian). Part dark comedy, part slow burn small town thriller, the film tries to thread the tonal needle and while its not entirely successful, it’s worthy of attention for its pondering meditation on motherhood and the weight of hope and broken dreams.
The film stars Tiina Mälberg as the titular Mother. She spends her days cooking, working in the garden, cleaning the house, and caring for her grown son, Lauri, who has fallen into a coma after being shot. Her house has a near constant stream of visitors including Lauri’s girlfriend, an amorous student of his, a childhood friend, the policeman looking into his shooting, and Aarne, Lauri’s old boss, whose currently having an affair with his mother. Lauri serves as a sort of confessional for his visitors and through them we learn about Lauri and slowly begin to untangle the circumstances surrounding his shooting.
Mother is a deceptively sharp film with a pitch-black sensibility and a frankness that you don’t see in Hollywood filmmaking. Director Kadri Kõusaar plays situations for comedy and tragedy in equal measure, demanding patience and a watchful eye as events begin to unfold. Tiina Mälberg is spectacular as the mother, crafting a performance that is all at once ferocious and tenderly exposed. It’s a fascinating portrayal of sacrifice and motherhood that, on its own strength, makes Mother worth seeing.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Mother may stretch the definition of what a thriller or a comedy is, but it’s fascinating nonetheless. At 89 minutes, the film can feel glacial at times, but its strong performances make it well worth watching. The film’s success rides almost entirely on Tiina Mälberg’s, who thankfully gives a knockout performance. This is a portrait of motherhood in a light you rarely see it shown.