Naomi Watts stars in Goodnight Mommy, a remake of the 2014 Austrian psychological thriller of the same name that proves to be a thrilling mystery to unfold.
There are very few films that I have gone into almost completely blind, and Goodnight Mommy happens to be one of them. Even though the Austrian original is hailed as one of the most unique horror films of the last decade, I didn’t have the slightest clue of what Naomi Watts’ latest effort was all about. Boy, was I in for a ride. Goodnight Mommy starts off with twin brothers Elias and Lucas (Cameron and Nicholas Crovetti, of Big Little Lies) arriving at their mother’s country home. Initially excited to see her, they soon realize that something is off when they discover their mother’s face wrapped in bandages and when she starts acting completely different than what they remember. This sudden shift in the person they love most starts to raise some concern in the two boys, leading them to question what is going on and who their mother really is.
While the movie initially feels almost too fast-paced to fit its short ninety-minute runtime, audiences get to start experiencing some of the best elements of the film right off the bat. Matt Sobel’s tense direction can be felt throughout the entire film, and even if there is little to no exposition, you are already on the edge of your seat half confused and half fascinated to see what’s going to happen next. So much of this fascination comes from Naomi Watts’ stoic performance. Watts is intoxicating as this mysterious mother whose true motives the audience never knows. None of Goodnight Mommy would have worked without her dedication to the emotional and physical labors that a role like this requires.
With Watts giving this role her all, it is hard to have almost any other performance reach the same heights. Both of the twins, who the majority of the narrative centers around, do a fine job carrying the film on their shoulders, but watching the scenes shared with the boys and their mother, you can’t help but recognize how Watts’ talent clearly surpasses everyone else in the film. Part of this could be the lack of exposition that would create an emotional attachment to the boys, but especially as the stakes are raised towards the end of the film, it’s hard to believe their performances as these confused and scared children.
Having never seen the original, I had little to no idea about any of the twists and turns that this story would take. While I thought I could predict the initial twist from the first five minutes, Goodnight Mommy goes deeper and takes a more unexpected direction than I had initially anticipated, which makes for a great climax. What both Sobel and Kyle Warren (the screenwriter) manage to pull by the end of this film feels thrilling enough to keep audiences thoroughly engaged till the time the credits roll, even if the film as a whole could have benefited from a few more risks taken.
At the end of the day, Goodnight Mommy delivers on what it promises you: a tight thriller with a fascinating performance by Naomi Watts. Even with the minimal backstory, there are enough thrills to keep your eyes glued to the screen, at the very least curious about what is to come. Having the film being told from the child’s perspective allows you to have a lot of fun with some of the more intense moments, especially when Watts gets angrier and angrier as the film goes on. If possible, go into Goodnight Mommy as blind as you can: you’re sure to have a great time interacting with the scariest mother of the year.
Goodnight Mommy will be available to watch on Amazon Prime Video on September 16, 2022.