There’s a twist in Goodnight Mommy, that everyone I know who has seen it caught on to very quick. I didn’t see it coming, and I think that my slight familiarity with Austrian filmmaking is to blame. Having seen Ulrich Seidl’s unbearably bleak Dog Days and the complete film collection of the even bleaker Michael Haneke, I chalked up suspicious tell-tale signs to just being an Austrian thing. Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy is very similar to these films in it’s clinical approach, sterile cinematography, minimal dialogue and slow, slow pacing.
Did I mention slow pacing? Goodnight Mommy travels at Walmart rascal speeds until a burst of energy propels it’s third act. This is a major problem for the film, because it lacks that meticulous attention-to-detail of Michael Haneke films. Cache and The White Ribbon moved at similar glacial speeds, but those movies offered up beautiful tiny details that enriched the fictional world by completely transporting the viewer. Fiala and Franz aren’t as skilled of filmmakers, and it really shows.
While not perfect, the film is still on-point from a technical level. The editing and cinematography create the right amount of dread and suspense throughout, and the beautiful countryside of Austria is well juxtaposed against the horrific events of the film. The acting is solid, especially from the two twin boys, and the set decoration is bare but effective.
While the film’s final twenty minutes are it’s most lively, they’re almost unwatchable. Not since Takashi Miike’s Audition, have I experienced human cruelty so vivid and frank in it’s depiction. I almost vomited. Goodnight, Mommy, while certainly well-made, is an impossible film to love. There’s no urgent social commentary behind the violence so it leaves you feeling completely hollow. Maybe this is the point, or maybe I’m missing something obviously right in front of me, like I missed the film’s twist. The only thing I know for sure, is that I don’t ever want to see this movie again. Enter at your own risk. Grade: B-