Goodnight Mommy Review: Admirable Performances Help Savage This Nuanced Remake
As much as frightfulness fans could wish for one, there’s no official grace period for how long a creation must wait prior to rebooting, remaking, or reimagining an original idea. Take the Austrian Goodnight Mommy, for example, which had been out for less than a decade prior to Prime Video tapped director Matt Sobel to convey his own take on the material for American audiences. While eight years have passed, some fans are already decrying this reimagination as being “too soon,” despite other revivals having been created in a fraction of that time. Fortunately for fans of the original, Sobel hasn’t attempted to remake that work just so audiences can avoid reading subtitles, yet by leaning into other angles of the narrative, this new take does lose a touch of the effectiveness of the breakout 2014 film.
When young twins Elias (Cameron Crovetti) and Lucas (Nicholas Crovetti) arrive at their mother’s (Naomi Watts) house, they’re immediately worried about the fact that her entire face is canvassed in bandages, the results of a “adjust” she claims to have undergone. More than simply looking changed physically, the boys notice that she is colder, angrier, and more distant from the boys. This sparks speculation that the person under the bandages isn’t their mother at all, igniting an escalating and paranoia-driven investigation by the boys that main drives their “mother” much madder.
Assumptions about the film aside, this new take on Goodnight Mommy absolutely works, thanks in large part to the strong performances by the main threesome of stars. The isolated setting means that at least one of while possibly not all of the triplet are always on screen, with just a handful of ancillary characters appearing to break up this dynamic. It should not shock anyone that Watts deftly handles the material, switching from an upset and brutal parent to an apologetic figure who is simply working through her own problems. The details of the split from the boys’ father aren’t exposed explicitly, however it’s easy to dismiss some of the darker concepts about the story as her only trying to adapt to a separation. Add to this the fact that most of Watt’s face is obscured all through the film and it adds another score to her consistently growing list of impressive outings.
Many audiences met the Crovetti twins in the HBO series Enormous Little Lies, with the pair’s performances rivaling that of Watts’. Their emotional episodes probably won’t be nearly as severe as hers, however they both have to navigate being hesitant, antagonistic, fearful, and tormented, as they explore all of these moods easily. Cameron specifically handles the brunt of these responsibilities, holding his own against the twisted Watts. Were this triplet not as certain about their performances, the film would have failed right out of the gate.
In any event, having already seen the original movie in its initial release, this new take on Goodnight Mommy is engaging and unexpected enough to make me fail to remember the twists and turns that the storyline takes, which is a credit not exclusively to the center idea, yet in addition to Sobel’s course. Whereas the original film leaned a touch more into additional horrendous elements, almost implying the mother was some sort of monster while also utilizing all the more obviously disturbing imagery with masks, bugs, and torture, Sobel instead leans more into the psychological perspective. While the audience can analyze each sequence as it is presented to attempt to discern what could really be happening, he intentionally leans into the eyes of kids, bringing with it all the opportunity and restricted insight that implies. Just hearing snippets of a phone conversation the mother has can lead them to rush to make the worst judgment calls, omitting the truly possible and real justification for such interactions and outbursts.
Seemingly to compensate for the lack of more abject ghastliness that was showcased in the original, there are numerous sequences where the boys’ fantasies defeat them, just to be awoken from dream states. Regardless of whether the first of these sequences may be relatively compelling, it’s frustrating to see the film return to the same well later in the film for an experience to summon the same impact. The inclusion of these encounters almost feels like retroactive studio notes that demanded the film have additional disturbing sequences in them, because without them, the film would completely fall into the realm of a psychological thrill ride, potentially in any event, skirting by with a PG-13 rating.
The narrative in the two films is undeniably engaging, keeping audiences on their toes with what this family is capable of doing to one another and what the reality of the matter really is. While this version works all alone as a relatively thrilling experience that leads to an unexpected ending, it still feels like a restrained version of the source material. The cast absolutely elevates the intimate experience, making for a commendable endeavor for frightfulness fans to embark on, with this take on the material potentially resonating all the more strongly considering those interested bending thrillers, however those who already have an established affinity for crafted by filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala will probably be left wanting.
Goodnight Mommy lands on Prime Video on September 16th.