Release Date: January 18, 2013
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Andres Muschietti
Cast: Jessica Chastain; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau; Megan Charpentier; Isabelle Nelisse; Daniel Kash
This is a creepy little movie.
Mama tells the tale of two little girls who are brought to a cabin in the woods by their suicidal father. The father intends on killing the girls (very uplifting), but something gets to him first. The girls are discovered years later, living in said cabin in a feral and animal state. They are brought to a psychiatric clinic where Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) intends to study their assimilation back into society. Coming to the girl’s rescue is their uncle, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and his rock-chic girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain), who will assume parental roles for the girls, much to the chagrin of their maternal aunt (Jane Moffat). The older of the two girls, Victoria (Megan Charpentier), has retained some language skills, while the younger, Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), was barely a toddler when her father died. After the uncle falls down a flight of stairs and lands in a coma, it is left to Annabel to become a surrogate, single mom and care for the girls, who keep mentioning a seemingly imaginary friend named Mama.
Who or what is Mama? What happened to Victoria and Lilly in that cabin? Who or what killed their father? All questions are answered in due time.
This movie gets a lot of mileage out of atmosphere. The dark shadows and creepy music cue us in that something otherworldly and weird is going on. There are some ‘BOO’ moments, but for the most part, the movie is simply just creepy. You know…figures moving mysteriously in the background, that sort of thing (although the girls walking around like spiders is certainly unsettling). It’s no surprise that Guillermo del Toro is behind this fucked-up bedtime story. He seems to be attracted to nightmarish stories involving strange children (“Pan’s Labyrinth”; “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”). “Mama” fits right in with this mini-genre.
This is the first time I have seen the suddenly-everywhere Jessica Chastain. She is actually quite good and I’m now intrigued to see “Zero Dark Thirty,” which landed her an Oscar nomination. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is perfectly sufficient (and hot!) as Lucas (doubling as his doomed brother, Jeffrey), and Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse are equal parts cute and creepy as the two girls. Kash and Moffat, as well as all secondary roles are well played and tech aspects across-the-board are excellent.
If you’re looking for a scare-a-minute fright-fest, this is not it. If more atmospheric weird-outs are more your style, then you could do a lot worse that spending time with “Mama.”