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Goodnight Mommy

Austrian psychological thriller mines the quiet horror of a mother-and-sons relationship

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This Austrian psychological thriller from Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz uncovers the dread and horror that springs up in a seemingly carefree relationship between a mother and her 10-year-old identical-twin sons, Lukas and Elias (Lucas and Elias Schwarz). Momma (Susanne Wuest) has returned from some undefined medical event, with her face completely bandaged. And she acts differently — colder, remote, even violent. “She’s not our mom,” the boys whisper to each other. In time, their reaction slides from bewilderment to troubling actions, as the lads decide to find out the truth. Or perhaps, more accurately, the “truth,” since the film shifts in its later acts, re-aligning both our sympathies and knowledge.

This all takes place in a secluded home, surrounded by idyllic countryside and filled with sleek modern furniture (and notably, a huge out-of-focus portrait of “momma’). The film is well shot, and is European arthouse in execution (unfolds slowly, with seemingly disconnected scenes) and tone (a spacey sense of a suspended time and place). Its quiet horror is mostly of the psychological variety, interspersed with the occasional bit of grotesquery, and quite effective — though the final reel may divide some viewers.


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